Changing the world seems like an impossible task for one person, but by working together, we can make a world of a difference! Thanks to the generous support of Webkinz Foundation, we have provided the people of Caihe with the skills and resources they need to affect positive, sustainable change in their own communities.
Together with the hard work of our in-country team, the valued cooperation of all community members and the support of Webkinz Foundation, Free The Children’s work in Caihe has transformed it into an environment where children are better able to learn, grow, play, and be healthy. With your commitment to change, we are empowering the people of Caihe, one step at a time.
Like many remote, rural villages in China, the community of Caihe has always had a lack of access to education. The community does not have enough schools, qualified teachers or teaching materials. Five out of ten males in Caihe cannot read or write and the situation is worse among females, which puts the illiteracy rate at 70%. The only school in this community was built in 1945, although five more classrooms were added to the old building over time. These existing classrooms were in deplorable condition.
In 2008, the great Sichuan earthquake destroyed all the classrooms in Caihe. The school was completely demolished, leaving the school site full of rubble. Close to 800 students in Caihe were forced to stop schooling because of the quake, until the government built tents for them to study in. The students of Caihe have been studying in these temporary tents for over a year now.
When Free The Children China staff members heard about the situation in Caihe, they entered the community for the first time. The damages from the earthquake were worse than anyone could have imagined. The earthquake had completely ruined the roads, which are used to connect the community to the outside world. This made it really difficult to find a way to transport construction materials into the community. Moreover, the earthquake produced many cracks in the ground, so it was very hard to find a good piece of level land big enough for the construction of the new school.
After several months and with the help of community members and local committees, the Free The Children China team finally overcame these challenges and began construction of the school. So far, the main wall of the school has been completed. Everyone on the team is working extremely hard in order to finish the school, but as the winter season approaches the bad weather conditions will make it impossible to continue construction over the next four to five months.
This school is expected to be finished in the summer of 2010. By then, children in Caihe will have a brand new school with large, bright classrooms. There will also be a library, a large playground and three latrines in the school. This will not only provide a better and safer environment for the students to study in, but will also offer proper sanitation facilities.
Because the community members feel that Free The Children’s support has been so beneficial to the community, many community members are volunteering to help during the school building process. They are very willing to participate in making the projects happen and helping to complete the necessary work. Together with Free The Children, they want to create a better future for themselves and the younger generation.
Water and Health
The community of Caihe is in Gansu Province, which is one of the driest provinces in China. It has a dry monsoonal climate. In the summer time, Caihe always experiences dry heat for several months and some years there is no rainfall at all. The extremely dry weather makes it difficult for people in Caihe to farm.
The only water system in this community is old and far away from the community. It consists of a well which is more than 40 years old. In the morning, women and children wake up early and walk for an hour to the well. Using two large buckets, they are able to collect and carry enough water back for their families to use for an entire day. Fetching water is an important daily chore for women and children in Caihe.
Because of the dry weather in this area there is a lack of safe, clean drinking water. People store their water in open-faced tanks after women and children fetch it from the well. They use the water from the tank for everything, such as washing clothes, cooking, bathing, and feeding the animals. It is very common to see people dipping their cups into the water tank to get a drink of water. These unhealthy habits can cause contamination and lead to many water-related health issues.
In order to solve these problems, Free The Children is planning to install a well in a central location in the community. As long as the community has its own well and clean water system, they can pipe the water directly to the new school. It will not only make it possible for the students to have safe drinking water in their school, but it will also save them time from walking an hour to fetch water every day.
In addition to a new well, Free The Children is also planning to hold sanitation workshops in Caihe. A doctor from a local health clinic will give several training sessions to local teachers, explaining the importance of hand washing, boiling water and other healthy habits in daily life. The teachers will then be equipped to provide this sanitation knowledge to the students and local community members. With this training in place, we expect a huge improvement in the healthy habits of the whole community.
Healthcare services in Caihe are poor. There is only one small health clinic in the community with one doctor. If people get sick, they usually seek herbal medical treatment rather than go to the health clinic. In many cases the community members don’t know the cause of their illnesses.
Malnutrition is another barrier to health in the community of Caihe, especially in children and the elderly. Usually community members only have two meals per day. Potatoes and noodles are their main source of food. This diet lacks the proper nutrients needed for a healthy lifestyle and combined with the lack of safe drinking water often results in disease. Because of this lack in proper nutrition, many children are shorter and look younger than they actual are. Many community members have little knowledge about dental hygiene, so tooth pain becomes a serious issue as community member’s age.
To solve these problems, Free The Children will work with the local government to seek partnership opportunities to provide health supplies to the community, as well as further training for local health care professionals. Furthermore, workshops will be held to educate all community members, especially children, on how to properly brush their teeth.
Beyond this, Free The Children will implement an alternative income program in this community, which will increase their income, making it possible for community members to have a better diet in the future.
Caihe is an extremely poor community. 90 percent of the inhabitants of Caihe live on less than $ 0.2 US dollars a day. The community only gained access to electricity about three years ago. The roads leading to the community are made of dirt, so once it rains the roads will become muddy and difficult to travel on. Moreover, the roads are really narrow which only allows vehicles to travel in one direction at a time.
Along with the poor infrastructure, Caihe lacks a strong internal economy. The community’s economy is based on farming, but the dry weather makes it difficult for farmers to harvest their crops properly. Sometimes, it is even difficult for the families to grow enough food for themselves. The community members often borrow money from neighbours and relatives for farming materials, tools and seeds. As a result, 85 percent of the families are in debt.
In the future, Free The Children plans to implement an alternative income program in this community to help them generate enough income to support themselves. Our multifaceted alternative income program specifically targets marginalized women and provides them with productive resources with which to earn an income on their own. For this community these resources will include goats and pigs for milking and breeding, as well as sewing machines for household or business tailoring.
Through Free The Children’s alternative income programs, community members will be provided with the skills and resources they need to provide their families with nutritious food, medicine, and an education. We hope that families in Caihe will soon be able to earn enough money to pay back their loans, which will create more opportunities for children to attend school rather than do farm work.
Once again, Free The Children would like to extend its deep gratitude for the ongoing support of Webkinz Foundation. This partnership is the driving force behind our success so far in Caihe. Through these projects, together Free The Children and Webkinz Foundation will reach thousands of community members and improve the quality of life they all enjoy.