A "Silver Lining" for China's needy students

Sept. 16, 2006, midnight | By Lois Bangiolo | 15 years, 2 months ago

Blazers found organization to aid students in China

So far, senior Allen Zhang has raised only $300 in donations, but in China, each dollar is enough to support a student's basic needs for one day. And his visit to China has showed him the need for each one of those dollars.

Over 40 million junior high and high school students in China live in poverty, according to Cornell University's Operation DEEP (Developing Elementary Education Possibilities in China). In addition, thousands of these students have been forced to drop out of school, reports "China Daily." In the summer of 2003, while Zhang was teaching an English class, he met one of these students, a boy who was struggling to attend school because of poverty. This was not a sole example; Zhang says the Chinese newspapers are full of stories of poor families who sacrifice nearly everything to send just one child to school.

To help students like the ones he met and read about in China, Zhang and a group of five other students, including sophomore Emily Hsiao and juniors Amanda Chan and Julie Zhu, have this summer formed the Silver Lining Foundation, dedicated to helping poor students in China. "It would be very unfortunate and a huge waste of talent if they can not continue their education because of financial inability," says Zhang.

Their goal is to provide not only money but also editing services via email to help the students learn and improve their English. Zhang hopes to have the foundation fully operational, sending money and starting the editing services, in the next two or three months "if we get lucky," he explains. His foundation has already started sending money; this past weekend they sent the donations they had raised to the students in China.

Hsiao, who has also had heard stories of the plight of poor students in China, was eager to join in after Zhang discussed the project with her. "I've heard a lot of stories of children in China who just can't get the proper education," she says. "[There are] many touching stories of how hard parents and families work just in order to make the time to educate the children."

Inspired by these stories, the students have started work by raising money. The money has come from within the group and from neighbors with whom he has discussed the project. Zhang has also recently been awarded the Youth Leadership and Community Service Award sponsored by the "Washington China Post," a Chinese newspaper based in the greater Washington area. With this award, he received $200 toward his cause.

To ensure that this money goes to the students in the most need, Zhang is working with an organization based in China that also has the mission of aiding poor Chinese students.

Collaborating with this organization, roughly translated as the Association of Heze for Students in Extreme Financial Difficulty, has allowed Zhang's group to learn about the students they will be helping. They hope to use this information to write cover letters to encourage corporate donations.

In addition to learning about the students, they have sent information about themselves and how they are trying to help. Zhang plans to offer editing services, where the students in China can send written work in English and have it read and edited by native English speakers. "No one can teach English better than those who have been speaking English all their lives," Zhang says.

Although he has started small, he hopes to expand his organization to include more students at Blair and other schools, which will increase the help his group can give. He emphasizes the value of a single dollar, which while "it's not much at all," for students in America, "helps a whole lot for students in China," says Zhang. "Here we don't realize how well off we are," Zhang says. "We go off to buy Starbucks, while other kids are desperately trying to go to school."

For more information, please contact Allen Zhang at alzhang@mbhs.edu.

Lois Bangiolo. Lois Bangiolo was born on March 14, pi day, an auspicious date as she is now in the math-science magnet. In addition to writing for Silver Chips Online she runs track and is secretary of the MBHS Key Club. More »

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