On August 22, we arrived in Yangjuan for our latest yearly visit: Our newest board member, He Wenhai; Nuosu education researcher Aga Rehamo, who will be spending the next two years at UW; old friends Tom Hinckley, Sara Jo Viraldo, Keala Hagmann, and I. We came in the wake of a flood that devastated Apiladda Valley all the way from Gangou to the fields below the Yangjuan School, and found mud everywhere, though the waters had receded for a few days already. We had been warned, and had stopped in Yanyuan town to buy Wellington boots, which were necessary just to walk the muddy “road” from Fagen’s house, where we were staying, a few hundred meters up to the school.
The next day, we walked the 5 kilometers each way up to Gangou to check out the devastation of the waters. Cornfields were washed away, the ripening stalks strewn everywhere on grassland and newly planted poplar forest; a former potato field was covered in good-sized rocks that washed down; banks were severely eroded, even a child was swept away by the waters (he was rescued; we talked to him). 83-year old Apu said he had only seen floods this bad four times in his life.
Despite the devastation of the waters, we were able to conduct a successful scholarship ceremony, helping out 51 college students with stipends of 3000 Renminbi, or about $500, each, and giving a small boost of RMB 1000 each to 18 students who have graduated from middle school and are now starting the first year of high school. Principal Sha Kaiyuan, Village Head Ma Guohua, CMEF board member He Wenhai and I spoke at the brief ceremony, along with two student representatives.
Ma Jingui, one of the first Yangjuan graduates to benefit from our middle-school scholarships starting in 2005, was one of the student speakers. His high school and college educations were delayed by a bad head injury, so he is now in his sophomore year of a bachelor’s degree program at Chengdu College of Digital Information Science.
Speaking entirely in Nuosu, he exhorted students not to miss out on opportunities, as he had when he was younger, but to apply themselves wholeheartedly not just for their own life advancement, but to show proper gratitude to their families and to the benefactors at CMEF. A poignant moment came when he broke into tears, and I saw four mothers in the front row of the classroom start to cry at the same time.
Ma Huaying, who is now in her final year of a three-year program at Guang’an Vocational and Technical College, also spoke, half in Nuosu and half in Standard Chinese, or Putonghua. Her speech was notable for its poise and for her perfect Putonghua pronunciation.
Then, when we passed out the scholarships, we discovered something. Despite all the best efforts of several of our friends, we had omitted seven college and nine first-year high school students who, after careful checking, were eligible for our scholarships. We had held some money in reserve for just such a contingency, but not enough, and now we find ourselves about $4000 short.
I think we can raise these funds by Yi New Year in early December, and He Wenhai can travel to Yangjuan to disburse them. Please consider contributing whatever you can so that we can complete our obligations.
Thanks in advance to everyone!