A trip to Chun Hua, China
Mrs. Barbara Mason is a dedicated, loving sponsor whose bond with her sponsored child, Di, transcends cultures and generations. Di is 14 and lives in China; Mrs. Mason is 82 and lives in Chicago. Despite these differences, though, the two have shared a great deal through letters and photos. Wanting to visit Di, but unable to make such a strenuous trip, Mrs. Mason recently arranged for her daughter-in-law, Bonnie, to go in her place. Below are excerpts from a letter that Bonnie wrote us about her trip:
The gift of education
Already in China on other business, I was very fortunate to have the time to visit Di and see the various aspects of her life. I met Di at her middle school in the Chun Hua District, where she showed me the classrooms and the dormitory.
The school is pretty standard for China—a building with 50 desks in rows and bare walls in the classrooms. Next door is the dorm where her friends stay. Since education is mandatory through grade nine and since schools in the village only go up to grade three, students attending school over grade four have to travel some distance (for Di, an hour by car) to go to school. They board from Monday through Friday and then return home to their rural communities for the weekends.
The dorms consist of 12-30 beds crammed side by side in one room. The students bring food from home for the whole week, and the only thing that will last that long is doughy bread. But when I visited Di's friends, they were eating some broth with a few noodles during their lunch break. Her school is currently building shower facilities, but the students still wear the same clothing all week.
Di is very lucky. Her parents are very enterprising. Her father bought a large tractor and rents it out during harvest season in their rural area. He also drives a taxi in town.
The family had a large chicken farm, but they sold it so Di's mother could rent an apartment near Di's middle school. So instead of living in the dorm, Di goes home for a home-cooked meal and a nice bed in her apartment with her mother.
Di’s parents have made enormous sacrifices for her and her older brother—a good portion of their income goes toward their education. Di likes school and is number five out of 51 in her class. She wants to be a singer, actress or doctor.
A home-cooked meal and a welcoming family
I traveled with Di over slippery, muddy roads to her village, where her mother prepared a delicious feast for me and five members of the Plan staff. The meal was cooked in the kitchen, but eaten in the all-purpose room that serves as a bedroom and living room.
Di and her brother (when they are home from school) share a bedroom with their grandmother. The rudimentary "toilet" (basically a concrete hole in the ground) is outside the family compound.
At the end of my visit, Di and I exchanged gifts. She then drew for Barbara a picture of a Chinese panda and wrote a beautiful letter, in excellent writing, inviting Barbara to come visit. You could tell that there was a real connection between them from their letters, and that Di was disappointed that Barbara didn't come. Even though she realizes that Barbara is 82 years old, she still hopes that someday she will come visit her.
On the one hour drive back to her school, we had plenty of time to exchange views and compare cultures. Di had many astute questions about the lives of young people in the US.
It was a pleasure and a privilege for me to be the liaison between this lovely sponsored child and my mother-in-law in Chicago to further the relationship between cultures and generations!
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