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"YingHua in Beijing" Summer Program Announcement

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2012-07-19


by Liao,Bonnie on 2012-07-19

Dear Parents,

Today was a life-changing experience for some kids and eye-opening for many others.

After the breakfast, I called the "leadership team" of seven girls together for a briefing. Some of them felt that the other kids did not "respect" them and that they did not have the "authority" as I do to make them follow them. I took this opportunity to give them some coach and counseling reminding them that, when we say that leadership is "the ability to influence others towards the group's goals through personal integrity and character," it is the "personal integrity and character" would win other's respect. Authority is not given but must be earned.

I let the group have more responsibilities in communicating with the school and with the students from lining up and walking to Guang Ai (18 minutes) to allocating resources to wall-building, classroom decoration, basketball game, and teaching drawing.

After lunch, the leadership team met again to have another briefing with me aiming to improve the effectiveness of the YingHua group as a whole. I hope these kids who were willing to become part of the "leadership team" would gain more experience and insight into leadership. I hope they at least would understand that leadership is not about ordering people around and giving instructions. The best place to start is for oneself to work harder than the others and to lead by example. This has been THE weakest area of this year's leadership team.

It is interesting to see how they have gradually learned to push themselves into the directions that they would not have been willing to go. For instance, none of the "leadership team" girls was willing to do the hard-core sweaty job of building the "wall." In a way, they were "lucky" that there were more than enough volunteers wanting to do it the day before. However, they had realized that it had been very difficult to convince anybody else to switch off the hard-working group of 8 students because they themselves would not be willing to do it.

After the briefing, in the afternoon, some of the "leadership team" girls would make the effort or attempt to do some hard labor - just to gain a different experience. Should you need to know my comments on your child, please reply to THIS email.

There was a large pharmaceutical company that came in the morning to organize some team-building activities with the Guang Ai kids, 18 of our kids also participated while 6 kids were helping to build the wall.

In the afternoon, I invited one of the volunteer teachers, Yang Laoshi, to talk to some of our students. She answered many of the questions from why she wanted to give up on a good corporate job but come teach here. She has a college degree in Law but always wanted to be a teacher. She has found her peace here and her love for the students was evident. She teaches the second grade. One of her students, Sun1 Li3, was well-known to our students because he came with us to the Great Wall on Tuesday. Our kids did not understand why that boy (small built wearing a blue-shirt and is 14 years old supposedly) would be so obnoxious once you showed him some friendliness. Yang Laoshi patiently answered all of these questions and broke down in tears when describing how the kid had been bullied even at Guang Ai and has no idea how to get other's acceptance despite he is actually very very smart. Sun Li has told our students openly that he used to steal while he's homeless and was caught by the police often. Some of our students were shocked how someone would steal. Yang Laoshi explained it to them that he would only steal for food because he was hungry and he didn't know any other way to live. Some students saw Yang Laoshi spanking him the other day and asked why. Again, Yang Laoshi patiently answered all these questions and told us emotionally how terrible she would feel everytime after she spanked her kids (i.e., the kids in her class). She only has 8 kids, but they all rejected her in the beginning because, she explained, these kids wanted attention and to be loved, but they did not like to be told what to do. They are literately the "wild kids." Now she has the full control of the class including the "blue-shirt" boy.

We calculated that the school's 600thousand yuan in donation (approx) would have to cover the 180thousand yuan in rent and minimally 150thousand yuan for food (5 yuan per person PER DAY for 300 days and 100 people). The teachers get paid a little more than 1000 yuan per month. For 10 teachers, that'd be 120thousand yuan per year. This process has opened up the students' eyes. Some of them realized that for them to eat a dinner, it would cost $50, but 5 yuan would cover each student's three meals! The teachers get so little pay. Some students said that their maid at home would get more. Many were shocked by these facts ...

There were a lot of thought-provoking conversations. Even though not everybody participated, but the evening reflection served as a secondary platform for the kids to share what they learned and thought about during the day. Several kids learned that they should not judge "the book by its cover" from the story of the "blue-shirt" boy. Others learned the story of Jason and wanted to help.

Jason was one of the three boys and is about 22 and cannot walk like a normal person. Both of his parents died and his aunt and uncle physically abused the three boys. He was the first one to leave the home and survived until someone from a Church, Cici, found him. Cici tried to teach him English and Christianity for four years before he ran away. Ultimately he came to Guang Ai. Last October, the older of his two younger brothers found him. He is Zhang Jianpeng and is the 18-year-old first-grader working very hard to get his elementary school education. Jason has just got the information of his second younger brother, who lives far away in a church organization, but he had no money to visit him let alone to take care of him. He is not telling these stories but I had to keep asking him for it. He felt very sad that he would not be able to see his brother, one of his only wishes.

When I told the students Jason's story, Narendra could not help from taking action any more. Before the teachers realized it, he had already raised over 1800 yuan from the students (and Rachel and me) to sponsor Jason. According to Narendra, some students simply gave up all of their remaining cash and vow that they would not spend any discretionary money through the rest of the trip. We will find out how to ensure that the fund would be used as the kids intended to.

Narendra wrote in his reflection, "Today was one of the most life-changing and meaningful days of my life. I went to Guang Ai School and I heard from the 2nd grade teacher the Guang Ai student's hisotry. Jason, blue-shirt guy, and even the teacher. I was so touched by the teacher's reason of teaching at Guang Ai. But I felt not grateful only guilty of my spending throughout the years. I heard their life problems as well as their monetary issues.. I then thought how I have spent money ... in buying overpriced materialistic things when I could just donate my money to the people in the school. I want to help them and my hope is that I will be able to support them as much as possible. This day really was one of the most life-changing days of my life and I want to change my motivation into action as I've never wanted anything more in comparison to the will to help them. I really wished I thought about this a long time ago as I could've helped more but now is better than never. As my mum said, it is better to give than to get and that a good opportunity will rarely come  ... so I should grasp this opportunity as much as I can to help. Also thanks so much to everyone who donated or will donate as this experience is an experience in which us and the Guang Ai students can benefit ..." When he read his reflection, we were all very moved because we have witnessed his changes since Day 1.

During the reflection, so many kids used the phrase we have discussed during the leadership workshop - translating motivation into action! As an educator, it is rewarding to see gradually how these kids have transformed albeit some have been impacted more than the others.

We are going back to Yong An on Friday


Bonnie

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