Ten year old Zhou Hua Qiong had never been far from home, nor would she ever have dreamed that out of nowhere a “Hong Kong sister” would arrive to provide her with tuition aid. However, thanks to the help of her “Hong Kong sister,” Zhou Hua Qiong will no longer have to worry about paying tuition from elementary to high school, freeing her to focus on her studies.
On the afternoon of November 11th, 2009, a cold day with a temperature of 3-5 degrees Celsius and bone-chilling winds, Zhou Hua Qiong came bouncing down the road to her house for lunch. She was surprised and confused to see a stranger and slowly approached. Her neighbor informed her that the visitor was a volunteer from Hong Kong, and with her neighbor's encouragement, Zhou Hua Qiong shyly went to the visitor's side. Later, when she received the first gift of 400 RMB, she didn't know whether she was emotionally moved or just excited, but soon her face was entirely covered in tears.
Zhou Hua Qiong's home is in Number 8 Bai Yan Village, Zhou He Town, Yilong County, Sichuan Province. She is presently in the third grade. Her father is a chronic sufferer from tuberculosis and bronchitis, annually consuming large quantities of medicine to treat his conditions. Her mother was dissatisfied with the family's poverty and left when Zhou Hua Qiong was only one year old. They have not heard from her since. Zhou Hua Qiong also has a soft-spoken brother who works to provide for the family, but in one year he is only able to earn a bit more than 3000 RMB. After buying medicine for their father and the household expenses, there is nothing left. Since the household is already deeply in debt, the family has had to rely on friends and relatives for daily needs like food and clothing. As a result, Zhou Hua Qiong has long been afraid of losing the opportunity to attend school because of a lack of money.
Then Sara Jane Ho, a Wokai volunteer from Hong Kong, arrived in Zhou He, accompanying ARDY employees to visit the clients' houses. When she learned of Zhou Hua Qiong's situation she was overwhelmingly moved and decided to offer this charitable gift to her “Yilong little sister,” thus forging a strong and unbreakable bond between them.
Sara Jane's family is relatively well-off, as her father is a prosperous businessman who, among other things, has helped to fund the construction of hospitals in impoverished regions of China. Since graduating from college Sara Jane first worked in New York City as an investment banker and now is working in Beijing at Wokai as a volunteer. Her dedication and great care for impoverished people has helped her to be even more of a “sister” to Zhou Hua Qiong and makes her gift even more meaningful. Sara Jane declared that her gift will continuously fund Zhou Hua Qiong's schooling and that she hopes that Zhou Hua Qiong will learn from the helplessness of her father to rely on her own hard work. She elaborated on this, suggesting that studying diligently is what produces a useful person for society, as well as a lovable person.
The actual gift will begin in 2010, with 800 RMB each year for elementary school and middle school, followed by 3000 RMB for each year of high school, lasting until college graduation. The grants will be given at the beginning of each semester and paid through the Association of Rural Development for Yilong County directly to Zhou Hua Qiong. Sara Jane looks forward to hearing from Zhou Hua Qiong regularly.
Pictured above is Sara Jane, "Hong Kong Older sister" with Zhou Hua Qiong, "Yilong younger sister"
Sara Jane Ho and Director Li from ARDY sit and talk at Zhou Hua Qiong's house