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A little known fact of life in China came to light when the diary of a 14-year-old peasant girl made it from a remote town in rural China made it to the bestseller lists in France. The book, which has now been published in 16 countries around the world, tells the story of a young girl who is desperate to stay in school, despite the problem of sky-high school fees, which her parents can not afford.


7 juillet 2003 1 07 /07 /juillet /2003 00:00
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Letter 17 - summer 2003

Dear All
The Association for the Children of Ningxia’s General Assembly took place on 28 June in Paris, doubtless not the best date in terms of bringing a maximum number of people together, as it was just on the eve of the summer vacation, but the only possible date during the time of my return to France from Beijing. About twenty people turned up, nevertheless. The meeting allowed us to decide on certain aspects of the initiative, to provide an account of our activities at present, as well as to get to know some of those who had joined us since the time of the previous General Assembly last October. In the attachment you will find certain documents distributed during this reunion : the financial statement, the list of current bursary recipients, and a letter from one of our bursary recipients in Ningxia.
FINANCES. Our financial statement testifies to the caution with which we have taken on commitments in the context of this initiative, while not knowing for sure if our numbers were not going to dwindle after a certain time. We have therefore limited the number of bursary recipients in order to avoid the risk of having to disappoint them once our financial resources started to dry up.
As a result we now have a good school year’s advance money in the bank, despite 42 bursary holders, for the number of people contributing to the Association with varying sums has risen from 25 to 250 between October and June...The Association will also receive a fraction of the royalties in The Diary of Ma Yan. So we may take an even brighter look into the future, and plan to develop our initiative accordingly.
The only small discussion during the General Assembly arose around the administrative costs of the Association. One supporter had particularly complained about the costs of postage of the monthly newsletter for those who did not receive it via email because they had no email address. Given that together with bank charges (arising with regard to the maintenance of the account as well as to international bank transfer orders), the charges for postage are the only administrative costs arising to the Association, which does not have to pay any rent or salaries and which up until now has never paid for the trips made to Ningxia, it did not appear to us that these costs were inappropriate. It remains up to those who can and wish to do so, to send us a booklet of stamps to cover for the postage of their newsletters...
The General Assembly re-elected Michèle Fitoussi as its President and me as treasurer. Also, a board was instituted under the direction of Emmanuelle Polack, who is its General Secretary. Those who were unable to attend the General Assembly and who wish to participate in the activities of the board are still most welcome to do so.
ACTION. As indicated in the last newsletter, the SARS outbreak, which has now been officially declared to be under control by the WHO, considerably disrupted our activities. Nevertheless, the return of September should bring an opportunity to launch a number of projects, among them an increase of the number of bursary recipients. We will be able to assure the equipment of a computer room at the School of Yuwang, as we promised to do for the school director last February. Six computers have been offered by the Beijing Lycée français, and 14 more will be donated by the Association from its own funds. It will perhaps be possible to provide for internet access from the computers, which would make it a lot easier to communicate with teachers and students at the School.
We are also pushing for equipment for the School’s library, to which we already provided dictionaries and encyclopedias as well as a stack of cartoons in Chinese (Tintin, Lucky Luke, etc) which were donated by a German student living in Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia. And finally, too, we are going to install five solar cells which were offered by a Chinese company thanks to the intervention of a Frenchman working in this company, which is based in Nanjing. Some ways of beginning to make some significant changes to the lives of the students, and to offer them somewhat better chances for their school education and putting them in a more equal position vis-à-vis the children in urban areas.
WELLS. At the General Assembly it was announced that our Association had won a prize, jointly with the publishers Nathan, from the company Procter and Gamble France, which in the context of a corporate commitment to promote sustainable development (which is in fashion...), offered two prizes for projects of charitable associations. One of them will go to a project for building a school in Afghanistan by Care France, and the other to the construction of a well in Zhang Jia Shu in Ningxia by our Association. The prize in the amount of 15.000 Euros will only be paid out next year, when student volunteers have begun the with the work as part of their ‘discovery’ classes at school.
Those who wish to find out more about this can contact Emmanuelle Polack, who is a member of the Association’s office which, together with the publishers Nathan, is in charge of this project. Emmanuelle has created a pedagogical project about the development problems in Ningxia. She can be contacted via email : emmanuelle.polack@ort.asso.fr or by mail, using the address of the Association.
Thus the construction of the wells, which we have been envisaging since the first days of the Association, could be become a reality perhaps as early as next year. There was a debate during the General Assembly about associating ourselves with an American multinational, but it did not appear to us as though we would be selling our souls to the “devil” by accepting funding, considering the conditions in which we are operating.
COPRESPONDENCE. We will try, on our return, to put a system of correspondence between bursary recipients in Ningxia and families who wish this in place. This is not easy for it appears that an enormous amount of translation would have to be done. Any volunteers are most welcome. In the meantime we hope that those who have expressed a desire to set up a correspondence with a child whom we are helping will excuse us, and have patience....
INITIATIVES. Among the initiatives of which we have given an account during the General Assembly, note the operation ‘rice bowl’ spearheaded by Emmanuelle’s (seven-year-old !) daughter who, in her Parisian school, convinved the school administration and her classmates to replace lunch was replaced with a bowl of rice and an apple on one day, and that the costs thus saved were donated to our Association. Thus, we received a cheque for over 607 Euros...
Another school, the College Montgolfier in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, dedicated the profits of the sale of an issue of its school magazine to our Association, and sent us 60 Euros. And finally, an association of French residents in Shanghai, ‘With Full Hands’, launched an appeal among its members to help the Children of Ningxia, and collected 6000 Yuan. Our thanks go to all the people who have helped here.
By the way, Ma Yan’s Diary came out in Italian recently (Il Diario di Ma Yan, Sperling & Kupfer Editori) and we have received financial contributions from some Italian friends, one of which was from an Italian teacher and several of his students, who put 125 Euros in an envelope...
So this is our latest news on the General Assembly and the Association as a whole. Nice holidays to everyone, and see you again at the return of the school year, which promises to be full of events.
Best wishes

Pierre Haski



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