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Report after Inspection
I am back from Yunnan . The purpose of taking this trip was to see first-hand how the Peach foundation is using the funds I donated. Despite the difficulty on finding the right words to describe my emotions regarding this journey, I made a promise to myself that a report has to be done!
November 2, 2005, we boarded a bus and took a five-hour ride from Kunming , the capital city of Yunnan , to Yung-Bi, one of the poorest counties in Yunnan . That same evening, we visited the Yung-Bi county high school, the only high school in the entire county. When we arrived at the school, there was already a crowd of students applying for Peach Foundation scholarships at the auditorium to welcome us. At that moment, I felt as if I were a mother bird carrying a worm in my mouth. Yes, I brought back food, but how do I allocate my limited supply to a nestful of eager chicks waiting for nourishment?
Early the next morning, all fourteen members of our group were divided into four smaller groups and we officially started our inspection. Warren, my husband, was assigned to the most strenuous division and I to the most senile one. In my group, I met an 81-years-old gentleman from the United States in excellent physical condition, and with an even healthier mental attitude, who will continue to be my role model for a long time to come.
As we prepared to embark on our journey, we were teeming in excitement. The bluest sky, the windiest dirt road, the cleanest air and the most beautiful scenery--I felt as if I had been placed in a picturesque poem! To prevent us from getting lost in the wildness, those kids whose homes were to be inspected received the day off from school so they could guide us in areas where no street names were assigned, nor any street numbers were marked.
After several kilometers' rough mini-bus ride, we need to take the rest of the journey on foot. Walking on the muddy hills, crossing over creeks left by land slides, balancing perilously on field ridges narrower than a gymnastics beam, a new sight that I have never seen in my 51 years of life suddenly emerged.
Could the shelters in front of me be called “homes?” Could they even be called “shacks?” The so-called houses the children showed us, I saw only a two-story structure, pieced together by wooden boards with no door, nor window, let alone electricity. Kids lived on the upper level of the structure with the lower parts for pigs, chickens and other live stocks. The “beds” are merely thin straw mats covered by tattered blankets. Nevertheless, some children still proudly nailed their hard-earned scholastic award certificates on the wall. Looking at these slim but sprightly children, I thought about my own kids whom I tried endlessly to provide with an even better life. I also embarrassingly thought about the pets that I rottenly spoiled -----------
Although it seemed impossible to lessen our sorrow, we had to suppress our heartaches and wipe off our tears and continue our inspection.
Most of the parents took a break from their farm work to meet and thank us. We also expressed our own gratitude: we thanked them for keeping the kids at school while they toiled from dawn to dusk at the field and we thanked them for letting the kids keep their goals alive while other villagers considered intellectuals as “aliens.” I met a mother whose husband had to take on a variety of odd jobs at nearby cities in order to earn just a few extra dollars per month. As a result, the job of cultivating a couple of acres of ladder-shaped field fell entirely on her. I saw her callused hands and mud-covered face, but not a trace of remorse. Strangely enough, the image of that gilded Queen of England appeared in my mind and I couldn't help but ask myself—who really deserves more of my respect after all? I also met a widowed father, who mournfully explained to us the harshness of dragging his rheumatic legs to plow the field in order to support two kids going to school while taking care of his ailing, paralyzed mother ---------- While most kids came from families supported by two working parents, some had suffered the loss of one or both parents in disastrous incidents. We were amazed to see how these kids managed to persevere through such traumatic experiences—without counseling of any kind.
Dinner time also meant group discussion time. After a laborious day, we were starved yet the food on the table seemed tasteless. We had to grievously and mercilessly eliminate some kids from our list—they weren't qualified under the Foundation's requirement of being “the poorest of the poor.” We have strict quota restrictions to meet!
After the inspection was completed, Warren and I continued onto Sichuan . The bus zigzagged through rocky roads with landslides every so many kilometers. With each passing village, I no longer felt the “poetic sensation” anymore. I knew there must be other kids in each of these villages that needed help. I did, however, find this small consolation: through Peach Foundation, I somehow lit a candle and gave a group of deprived children a sense of hope; through Peach Foundation I am guaranteed that, 1. my love has been sent to persons who are in need, 2. my act served a meaningful purpose, and 3. the money I donated is well-managed. The Founder of the Peach Foundation, Ms. Ruth Jeng, was my college classmate back in the ‘70s. She is one of the few people I know who is more careful with money and more results-oriented than Warren . The money we donated (US$200 per year for high school students and $100 per year for junior high students) is FULLY granted to the students to pay for tuition and educational fees. Volunteers take care of all their own expenses throughout the trips, and all administrative expenses for the Foundation are covered through membership fees.
All these years, I thought, so many people are in need for help. With a task so daunting, and with resources so limited, why would I even bother to start? I am wrong! The faces of those children made me realize that it is okay to HELP ONE AT A TIME. All along, I thought people whom I helped would be jealous of what I have. I am wrong again! On the trip, those kids would, without any hesitation, share the only bun they had for lunch with us. They have absolutely no interest in this greedy, covetous society. Their “extravagant” wish is to complete their education, become self-sufficient and bring their parents and families out of poverty. They are indeed seedlings seeking their existence amongst precipice and steeply cliffs; they have the will to become sturdy, distinguished trees. These children deserve to be cared for. They deserve to be sponsored.
Over 51 years, I have been so blessed with never having had to ask for assistance from anyone. Now, with this information I bring back on these Yunnan kids, I ask you, my dear friend, if you are willing, to please take a moment and check out Peach Foundation's website: www.peachfoundationusa.org (Peach Foundation USA). If you also become a sponsor, I hope that your New Year will be as meaningful as mine is. Thank you.