Happy Thanksgiving, our Rocksgiving charity concert is today, folks! While you’ve already read about the bands you will be hearing and the raffle prizes you may be winning, a part of you is probably wondering: but where is all my hard-earned cash being donated towards?
Where: Lune, 4F, 218 Xinle Lu by Donghu Lu
Starts: 8pm, Thursday, November 25
Cover: 50RMB for entry, 10RMB per raffle ticket
Josh Lange of the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation is here to answer that question – and to talk a little bit more about his organization, the children you’re helping… and himself! Nothing breeds trust like getting to know someone. (Smart Shanghai has put up an interview with him as well)
Explain for a bit what is CWEF and what its main goals are?
CWEF (Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation) is a Hong Kong based non-profit that works to improve the lives of the rural poor in Asia. We focus on two major issues that can help people pull themselves out of poverty: increasing educational opportunities and improving health conditions. To that end, CWEF gives scholarships to needy students, provides libraries and teaching materials for local schools, builds clean water systems for rural villages, and conducts hygiene training for local school children, among other projects.
Shanghai is actually a relatively new city for CWEF to be in, right? What’s the history here?
Yes, CWEF just recently started work here in Shanghai. CWEF originally began its work in Yunnan province and we still have a strong presence there, but in recent years, we have expanded to Guangdong, Sichuan, and of course to Shanghai. We have also recently initiated several projects in Cambodia and Indonesia.
In Shanghai, we are partnering with a local migrant school in Jinshan district, and we plan to expand to several more schools in the coming years. The government here pays tuition for migrant students, but families are responsible for other school costs such as insurance, uniforms, and lunches. CWEF is providing scholarships for migrant students, which helps relieve the burden their families face in putting them through school. We have also supported an upgrade to the school’s library, and have begun taking teams of volunteers to Jinshan on a regular basis to support the students’ education through Saturday English classes.
How did you come to be involved in CWEF and in work here in Shanghai?
Prior to moving to Shanghai, I had been living in Hong Kong since 2008. That year, I was invited to join a group from a church in the United States who had donated funds for a clean water system in Yunnan province through CWEF. They had sent a small team that helped to install the water system and meet the local people who would be benefited by the project. Since this first exposure to CWEF’s work, I have been interested in getting involved on a more personal level. When the opportunity to work with CWEF in Shanghai arose, I jumped at the chance.
Talk a little bit about your initiatives with international high schools too:
CWEF reaches out not only to the marginalized people of Asia; we also seek to provide ‘service learning’ opportunities for those who have been blessed with considerably more. We have partnered with several international schools throughout Asia, giving students the chance to become directly involved in our projects. In Shanghai, Concordia International School has been a strong supporter of CWEF projects throughout the years, and their students and teachers have served as volunteers for our projects in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangdong, and Shanghai. We strongly encourage and invite other schools to partner with us in this way.
What will the Rocksgiving money be going to?
All proceeds from tonight’s concert will support scholarships for migrant students at Mengshan Middle School in Shanghai’s Jinshan district.
What are the biggest issues facing the students that are the beneficiaries of this charity?
The families that send kids to the migrant school in Jinshan have recently moved to Shanghai from more rural parts of the country, mainly from the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Sichuan. They have moved to the big city for better job opportunities and better education options for their children.
However, many of these families struggle to get by in the land of opportunity. In our first group of scholarship recipients, only one parent out of nearly 30 has attended high school, so naturally most of the parents are manual laborers. The typical situation is that the father works construction while the mother works in a factory. Some parents can only find temporary work. The average annual income per family is about 12,000 RMB (US$1,750), and total family size ranges from as few as 3 to as many as 8.
As you can imagine, the financial burden is heavy for these families, especially for those who are trying to put two or three kids through school at the same time. Most work long hours and some go into debt to finance their children’s education.
All this adds up to an huge amount of pressure placed on these students to do well in school.
One of our students at the Jinshan school put it this way in her scholarship application:
“Watching my parents working so hard for us, I decided that I will study hard. The children in the city all study very hard, and I want to be like them but my family’s financial situation is very bad, and I’m worried that one day I will just have to drop out. I heard that you might be able to help us and am really happy. If I receive your kind help, I will study harder and contribute back to the society. Thank you very much!”
What else can people do to help besides go to an awesome rock show?
We will be taking English teaching volunteers to our partner schools on a regular basis, and these trips will be held on Saturdays. If you’re interested in joining us for one of the upcoming trips, please contact Josh Lange at [email protected].
If you’re interested in donating to CWEF projects, you can do so via our web site at www.cwef.org.hk (just click on ‘Give’ from the home page).