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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blessing Hands Quarterly Report

I got to meet many new Yangshuo Blessing Hands children during my trip to China in March and see old ones again. I was there during the last part of March with a Sister Cities Group and of course visited the schools.

The children had letters and drawings to give and the older ones had self-introduction speeches to recite. I was delighted to give them Beanie Babies, candy, and other small gifts. The school principals and teachers also got small gifts like tapes and CDs. Some of the older students were able to speak and write English. At some schools we had time to have them write introductions about themselves to share with pen pals or sponsors, but at other schools we barely had time to give them English names, if they wanted one., and take pictures.

Some of the primary children we helped in the fall don't need support now, since the government is paying their tuition. We have kept 50 of our original 185 supported primary students. The support for these younger students is now $10 a semester rather than $25 as before, since they will only need help with books and school supplies not tuition. This semester we will be supporting 40 junior middle school students, which is an increase from last semester. Their $25 support will include room and board, books, and school supplies but not tuition since the government is now paying that. You can see pictures of children from Zhonghe Middle School on my blog.

Thanks to the Founding Family Grant we will be able to add 55 higher middle school children to Blessing Hands in Yangshuo this semester. We had a few before, who had special circumstances like the death of a parent, but now we will be supporting many. Being over 15 they don't receive government school tuition and are tempted to drop out of school rather than go on to high school. We can really make a difference by offering tuition and room and board to those who need our help. In mostly rural Yangshuo this will only cost $63 a semester.

Beginning with the fall semester any Yangshuo County Blessing Hands student who graduates in the spring of 2006 and is accepted into a Chinese college may apply to Blessing Hands before August 1st for a partial college scholarship during the 2006-07 school year. Scholarships will be awarded based on need, test scores, college tuition expenses, number of students applying, and availability of scholarship money for that purpose in the Blessing Hands treasury. I am hoping that you sponsors will want to support these individual scholarships. We already have awarded two $250 spring semester college scholarships at Guangxi Normal University to rural students studying to be teachers. That covers half of their tuition.

Blessing Hands branched out this semester to assist a primary school in Wuming, a Zhuang minority area near Nanning. Mr. Lu, who was a visiting scholar in Morehead, comes from the Zhuang people. He took us to his home town and Nine Mile School where 28 children needed help paying for their school books. We gave the school $175 to pay off a textbook bill. The principal there is an old classmate of Mr. Lu, and the children were delightful. We also attended a Zhuang Song Festival in Wuming.

Beginning with the fall semester Blessing Hands will be using grant money from Founding Families and your matching contributions to support higher middle school children in the Qinzhou, Guangxi area of China. Anna Liu, who is a visiting scholar at MSU, has helped to secure this grant and will administer the program in her area. 60 rural higher middle schools will receive tuition help for students while 30% of the proposal will cover children in No.1 Middle School, which serves many rural children from the area. The higher middle school tuitions in Qinzhou are $75 a semester, since it is a more prosperous area. The proposal calls for tuition help for about 280 students.

Founding Family is sending me to a course on how to start a non-profit charity. Blessing Hands has grown so much that it is now necessary to be incorporated and become an official charity. Donors will then be able to get tax receipts from Blessing Hands, but for now any donations should be given to Founding Family Foundation,1004 Rodney Dr, Nashville, TN 37205-1018. They have promised to match any donations (except donations from my relatives) to Blessing Hands up to $25,000 before December 31, 2006. The checks need to be written to Founding Family Foundation. You can see their web page at http://foundingfamily.org.