Editor’s Notes: The author of this article, Xue Ying, is a volunteer for OCEF. For many years she served as the high school scholarship coordinator in Xinjiang and frequently conducted home visits with impoverished students and their families, which equipped her with abundant firsthand experience. She is now the group leader for the OCEF Correspondence Group. In this article, Xue Ying shares several stories about former students who rose from poverty to success with support from loving people and changed their lives through hard work and dedication. Through these stories she wants to show us that those with less fortunate upbringing can still achieve great success. As long as organizations like OCEF continue to exist, as long as more and more people with passion and love join us in giving to those in need, there will be more stories like these to discredit the old saying that children from the bottom of the society can never make it on top.
Last year a post went viral on WeChat Moments, saying that it is impossible for kids from less fortunate families to have breakthroughs and achieve success. Without getting bogged down with the specific arguments in the article, I just want to say that this conclusion clearly conflicts with my experience and observations. As someone who spent decades working in the countryside, my personal experience and stories I was told show that it is totally possible for someone from low upbringing to get access to higher education through their efforts and to leverage this as an opportunity to change their life.
During my tenure at a county education department, I took a role as an OCEF coordinator and interviewed hundreds of impoverished families for financial assistance purposes. I witnessed firsthand the hardship these kids faced at home, but ultimately more than half of them were admitted to the colleges of their dreams and went on to graduate, drastically improving their lives over their parents’ in the process through their own efforts. There were a few examples that I will never forgot.
“Lost at the Starting Line?”
There was this girl who got government-sponsored scholarship and went to France to further her studies after graduating from Beijing Foreign Language University. She is now pursuing a doctorate degree. This girl totally fits the bill as someone who had already lost at the starting line, as that WeChat post puts it. She was born in a village 10 kilometers from the county seat. Her family is Han Chinese, but they lived in an area where most residents were ethnic Uyghurs and all classes at the local schools were conducted in the Uyghur language. Her father was handicapped and unable to work, her mother had mental illness, and both her elder siblings also suffered from mental deficiencies. Before she was discovered by a local teacher and brought to school, everyone in the family was illiterate.
In the mid-1990s, there was an audit on the implementation of nine-year compulsory education, so governments and schools at all levels were going around to identify school-aged children who are not in school, and she was discovered. She was brought to the village school and all fees and tuitions were waived for her as a special exemption. She worked very hard and proved to be quite talented; she got the highest grade every year even though all classes were still taught in Uyghur at the time and was able to skip grades in both elementary and middle schools.
With help from the government, school and charity organization, she went through high school without ever having to worry about paying for school. Instead, she also received a stipend. Upon graduation, she was admitted by the French Language Department of the Beijing Foreign Language University. The local government paid for her travel expenses, the tuition for her first semester, and some of her living expenses. Later on, she paid through rest of her way with student loans and earnings from work-study programs. Upon graduation, she got a government sponsorship and went to graduate school in France.
This pretty Uyghur girl—let’s call her Guli—was to parents who were both illiterate. The parents had lost their jobs and had no land to farm nor the necessary farming skills. Luckily, her father really valued education and wanted his kids to have a good education despite their economic situation. After interviewing her family on behalf of OCEF, I passed her case to Mr. A, a donor who wanted to personally sponsor a good kid. Since then Mr. A has provided for Guli’s schooling, including tuitions, fees, books and boarding.
After high school, Guli was admitted to a Project 211 university in Beijing and Mr. A covered her travel expenses to school as well as some other costs. Over the years they have kept in touch. Now Guli has a government job in south Xinjiang and Mr. A is extremely proud of her. Guli’s elder brother also got a stable job with decent pay and their father has found a job that fits him. The whole family is doing much better than when I visited them years ago.
The Brothers of Humble Beginning
I know a boy whose family was in deep financial trouble after his father’s illness and death. They had lost their house by the time I visited. He was living in borrowed temporary quarters with his mother and brother, and it was two small rooms with no furniture but beds, a table and a stove, and no electrical appliances but light bulbs. After the visit, I passed their information to Mr. B, an entrepreneur, and he decided to provide for this kid right away.
Two and a half years later, the kid was admitted to a Project 211 university in Beijing. He found a well-paying job after graduation and is now married with a happy family. Mr. B has nothing but praise for the kid. The boy’s elder brother attended a normal university and was able to complete his college education without tuitions. He is now teaching in a school in northern Xinjiang. The brothers and their mother have now put their past struggles completely behind themselves.
The Mechanical Engineer
The last kid whom I want to talk about has impressed me the most. She was from a good family, not very rich but close, but lost both of her parents to an accident. After that, she lived mainly on a small stipend from the local government. Her parents left her about 1.3 acres of farmland, on which she grew wheat by herself while attending school. Despite the hardship, she never said anything about it to anyone in school. Luckily an attentive teacher in high school sensed that something must be going on in this student’s life and referred her to me. During a visit I learned about her situation from a neighbor.
At the time, the standard OCEF sponsorship was ¥1,000 RMB per month, far from sufficient to cover her expenses, so I posted her story on the OCEF forum. After reading the story, a volunteer in Hangzhou got in touch with her through me and started sponsoring her. With that, she finished high school and got to a Project 211 university and finished school with student loans, work-study and scholarships. She got a decent job after graduation and paid off her loans. The girl called me the day after she paid off her loans and sounded very excited, and I could not hold back my tears either. Now a mechanical engineer, married and the mother of a new baby, she had become a confident young professional.
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During my five years as an OCEF coordinator, I worked with more than 100 students from poor families who received OCEF financial aid packages. I did not keep track of all these kids in detail afterwards, but I did gather their college admission information since OCEF provided a ¥1,000 RMB scholarship to each of them who entered college for their freshman year. Thus, I knew most of them went to decent universities. One of them later enrolled in graduate school and eventually became a professor.
My personal experiences told me that kids from less fortunate background can totally change the destination for themselves and their families with hard work plus support and guidance from the society. With the implementation of free K-12 education policy in some regions, there is no longer any financial burden for kids in those regions to get an education through high school. Some of the students who received OCEF aid and later went to college told me that once they were in college, a lot of work-study opportunities were available, in addition to scholarships and student loans, to help them overcome financial challenges. As a result, it is no longer a problem for kids from poverty to finish college as long as they are hard-working.
Needless to say, there are places where the national policies have yet to be fully implemented, and that is where charity organizations such as OCEF come in. these organization, kindhearted people everywhere could channel their love and financial contributions to the children in need, to help them, and the cheer them on in their pursuit of their dreams. I do believe that with the full implementation of the national policies, with the support and help from the society, and with their own hard work, the statement that students from families of poverty and lower status can never have a breakthrough will surely be proven false.
The 2019 Donate Your Used Items for Education charity sale in the Great Chicago area will be on soon! The annual charity sale was first launch in 2015 and was well received and supported. Since then, it has become highly anticipated event among our friend in the Chicago area. Last year over $2,000 of funds were raised, all of which have been used toward supporting rural education in impoverished areas in China. This year we will have our fifth sale, and we are looking forward to more friends joining us!
When to donate: before June 5, 2019
What to donate: small household items in good condition, such as toys, bicycles, small exercise equipment, small appliances, crafts, and home décor
What not to donate: car seats, high chairs, clothes, furniture, and bulky items
Where to donate: donation stations have been set up at Chicago Downtown, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Hoffman Estates, and Naperville.
How to donate: please scan the QR code below on WeChat and OCEF volunteers will contact you with further details (donors will receive receipts from OCEF)
Time and location of the charity sale: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on June 8, at Vernon Hills Township Garage Sale at the Prairie View Train Station (2701 N. Main Street, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089), Space Nos. 103-106
Bake sale will be held as usual during the event. We welcome all children to show off their baking skills and encourage you to donate cupcakes, cookies, drinks, etc.
Calling for volunteers!
We need more volunteers to set up additional donation stations by contributing your garage for temporary storage, and to transport donated items to our booth on the day of the event
We have an urgent need to borrow shade canopies and folding tables to be used on the day of the event
If you are available to help us set up and man the both or clean up afterwards, please let us know
Please scan the QR code if you are interested in volunteering for the 2019 charity sale!
第35期（2019年5月）/No. 35 (May 2019) 翻译：何雪炀 编校：汤柏 Translated by He Xueyang Edited by Tang Bai