Children in remote Yangjiagou, China, now play outside a new brick primary school that replaces the dingy cave where they used to study. The eight-room school, the village's first brick building, was completed in July with $7,000 raised by Friends of Rural China Education (FORCE), a nonprofit Florida-based group.
The organization was founded by Chinese-American Lin-yi Wu and her husband, Dr. Hung-sen Wu, after they read an April 27, 1992 Monitor article detailing the plight of schoolchildren in Yangjiagou, Shaanxi Province. The article described how the school's teacher, Bai Guiling, struggled to teach two grades at once in the dimness of the earthen dugout, which had only one paper window. Teacher Bai oversaw the construction of the new school, overcoming such obstacles as corrupt and envious local officials. Now Bai is delighted to welcome her 50 pupils into bright classrooms with glass-paned windows.
``We are very happy that one school is done,'' says FORCE co-founder Mrs. Wu. ``Still, it is only a drop in the ocean. The need is tremendous.''
FORCE now plans to ``adopt'' and replace a second Chinese school in Shaanxi. One school under consideration, a row of caves hollowed out of the ground, was damaged by a flood. The school is overcrowded, with some 300 students attending and others on a waiting list. Replacing that school would cost $13,000. So far, FORCE has raised nearly $9,000 from donations and proceeds from such activities as selling Chinese greeting cards and offering classes in Chinese cooking and tai chi exersises. FORCE hopes to enlist wider support from Chinese-Americans, who traditionally donate money only to their home villages.
Wu says FORCE can find inspiration in the words of China's beloved Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu, who wished to see:
Tens of thousands of mansions
Housing the laughter
Of every penniless scholar
Under the skies.
FORCE: 2425 NW 162nd Street, Newberry, FL 32669, USA.