Who are we?
The french-registered non-governmental organization Enfants du Ningxia is still very young : its first general assembly was held in October, 2002... But its action is actually older, as it started on an informal basis at the beginning of 2002, following the publication in the french daily Liberation of a report on Ma Yan, a young chinese schoolgirl, daughter of poor farmers in southern Ningxia province, north-western China, who was threatened of being pulled out of school because of her family’s financial difficulties. Her cry of “I want to study” had moved many readers of the newspaper, who had offered assistance.
As no NGO was operating in Ningxia, we decided to try and organize “something”... We decided to offer scholarships to children, mostly girls, excluded from the education system, obviously starting with Ma Yan who had become the symbolic face of this movement. We did it simply, by collecting funds on a Paris bank account, and giving the scholarship directly to the families we selected (this is the toughest part...), bypassing any intermediaries. The only condition asked was that the children should write to us during the school term to tell us about their studies. Twenty scholarships were thus offered at first, two months after the publication of Ma Yan’s story. At the beginning of the new school year in sept. 2004 we had some 400 scholarships, including all the children of primary school age of Zhang Jia Shu, “Ma Yan’s village”, to whom we guarantee free primary education.
It became rapidly necessary to formalize our action into an NGO (according to the french 1901 law on Associations), both for legal reasons and to better organize our action. We quickly realized that we also needed to be involved in projects that could affect people’s lives collectively, as our intervention in this remote region of Ningxia created as much frustration as it generated satisfaction.
We therefore started working, together with the heads of the Yuwang middle school as well as the Zhang Jia Shu primary school, and other schools in the region, on providing better equipments : 50 computers were installed at the Yuwang middle school in september 2004. Books and small equipment were also provided to three schools.
We also started working, after discussions with the farmers, on the water supply problem of Zhang Jia Shu, a major concern for the population. Thanks to the publicity generated by Ma Yan’s diary, as well as sponsoring possibilities from private companies, we can start planning it. A well for the village, to replace the one that collapsed five years ago and was never replaced for lack of funds, was built in october 2004.
The Association also started acting at the level of french schools, where teachers and students have been sensitive to Ma Yan’s story and started to work on issues such as the right to education and the realities of development issues in some of the world’s least known regions. With the help of a school teacher who was among the first to react to the Liberation story, we developed this action. She actually designed a teaching project based on Ma Yan’s diary.
All these projects require funding and goodwill. The funding part is simple : funds are collected and placed on a Paris bank account for the financing of the scholarships and other projects. Expenses are limited to the maximum : banking fees and postal dues. No salaries or rentals. There’s been a lot of goodwill, with volonteers both in Europe and China managing the funds, dealing with mail and building our website in English, French and Chinese.
The Association has chosen at its presidency Michèle Fitoussi, a journalist with Elle magazine and a writer, who has committed herself to this action since the start, and published a report in the September 2002 edition of France’s Elle. Pierre Haski, author of the first report on Ma Yan, is the association’s treasurer, now based in Paris, and Perrine Lhuillier, a Beijing-based volunteer, coordinate relations with Ningxia and follow up the actions there.
How to support our actions ?
The foundation depends on the public to implement its program of scholarships that allow poor families to continue sending their children, mostly girls, to school. We slowly increase the number of scholarships as when we provide one, we commit ourselves to follow it up until the end of the child’s studies. The funds are attributed to a collective account, but donors can establish a direct relationship with one of the students if they wish so. One term at a primary school costs 100 yuans (10 euros or 12 US dollars), one term at the lower middle school -including boarding- is 500 yuans (50 euros or 60 US dollars), and at high school 700 yuans (70 euros or 85 US dollars).
If you wish to join our action, you can contribute to the Association’s fund at the following banking address :