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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.

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7 avril 2002 7 07 /04 /avril /2002 00:00
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THE LETTER FROM THE NINGXIA/
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Lettre 7 - April 2002

Dear All,
It is some time now that you haven’t received any update on our initiative , so here is one at last. Firstly, we have received letters from all the children to whom we gave bursaries when we went to the village last month. As I had already indicated, this is the one requirement we had imposed on them as a precondition for continuing the bursaries in the following semester : they are required to write to us after a certain time at school, to confirm that they are going to classes properly. They have all of them done this, warmly thanking us.
We have also received a very moving letter from Ma Yan’s mother, written by one of her sons because she herself is illiterate. The letter is addressed to my assistant and to myself (‘elder sister and elder brother’) and indirectly, through us, to all of you who are helping her daughter. Here is an excerpt from it :
"How often I think of you, of the evening we spent together. You are like my elder sister ; I told you all my worries, and am very glad that I did. It is as though I had only dreamt about it. Elder Brother and Sister, I entrust Ma Yan to you. I am her mother, but I could only give her life ; I could not give her a great ideal. You have given her everything, Elder Brother and Sister. Ma Yan is my daughter, but she is also your daughter. I beg you to raise her so that she becomes a useful person. Elder Sister, you said that Ma Yan could perhaps study in France ; if there is any such opportunity then she must go, to have a good education. We will be very happy with such a development.
"After your departure, that day, Ma Yan was quite petulant and kept asking me why you did not stay one day longer. I told her that Uncle and Aunt had a lot of work to do. She said, “Yes, they work hard. That evening while you were talking, I could not sleep. I lay on the bed thinking about so many things. I can see this time that they have lost weight, and this makes me feel ill myself. They are worrying about me.” I understand Ma Yan’s feelings, I know to what point you are important to her.’
Ma Yan’s younger brother added a few words from himself at the end : ‘Dear Uncle and Aunt, that day when you came to the school I was very happy. You asked my sister to call me so you could take a picture, and we could return to the village together. Uncle and Aunt, I will certainly study well : when I am grown up, I will make a contribution to my country. My studies are not going as well as those of my sister. My mother has not learned to write well so I am writing for her. My sister says I don’t write well ; what do you think of my writing ? If you encourage me, I’ll be very happy.
Ma Yi Chao, 31 March 2002
Some news, by the way, on the publishing front, for the entirety of Ma Yan’s diary, with a text presenting the diary by myself, will be published by Ramsay publishers in France next September. This is good news for her family, who will be duly remunerated, and have a real prospect now of substantively changing their lives. So the Ma Yan’s ‘fairytale’ is being continued...
We have also received a number of letters from children or their parents in the district, asking for help. We decided to send money to a schoolmate of Ma Yan’s at High School, who is in quite a serious situation, financially and healthwise, as was confirmed by the High School’s director. Here is an excerpt from her second letter, in answer to a first letter from us.
‘On 8 April I got your letter. It was a Monday. In the first afternoon class, the teacher brought me your letter. When I saw the address on the envelope, I knew that you had received my letter and that you had answered it. You can imagine what my joy and my emotions were at that moment. The tears streamed down my face all by themselves. I do not know with what words I can thank you. What I can do is to throw myself into studying despite everything, with great determination, in order to thank you with good results ; to become a new person qualifying for the 21st century ; to master the knowledge of modern science ; to keep step with our time ; to fight for my ideal. Every day that I live in this world, I must use my intelligence for realising the Four Modernisations. I would like to be someone like you, to help the children who cannot go to school, to show them my loving heart and let them go back to school ; to save my comrades. I thank you for the attention you have shown myself and my family ; I take a bow before you.
I remain the same as usual, I have to vomit once or twice a week, I suppress it and hide it ; I don’t know for how long it will be like this. But I continue. As the saying goes, perseverance is victory. I live with a mask, bitter in my heart, but with a smile on my lips when I face any of my teachers and schoolmates, so that they do not notice anything. Uncle and Aunt, do not worry yourselves. I will persevere to the end.’ We also decided to help two children whose case we were informed about, which will put the number of children receiving bursaries thanks to you - including Ma Yan - at twenty. The money intake to be expected in the future should make such a commitment possible, and it should be possible even to widen our commitments by next September.
A financial account : the donations received up until now from France, Italy, Belgium and Great Britain amount to about 3.000 Euros, of which around 1.000 Euros have been spent already (we have kept receipts of each centime spent, and these receipts can be inspected by anyone who wishes to do so). We have been progressing with prudence so far as expenses are concerned, in order to be able to ensure that the initiative could be carried through for however long it took, and to learn to discriminate between those who have sent a one-off sum, those who envisage sending donations each month, or every three months or six months. In any case we certainly have enough to continue, in the foreseeable future, with this initiative. Though modest, it does have a real impact on this particularly poor Chinese district. The letters we are receiving testify to this.
I will be at your disposal in case you have any enquiries to supplement the information I have provided here. Thanks to those who have offered to help : for the time being, there is nothing much that could be done from a great distance.
Best wishes to all of you
Pierre Haski
Beijing, 17 April 2002



PS : I am attaching a very kitschy photo which Ma Yan sent us. I hope you can open the attachment.

 

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