Welcome to our Blessing Hands Blog

Thanks for visiting our website and learning about our charity that helps children in China stay in school.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Newsletter for December

Blessing Hands - December Newsletter

COOPERATION WITH MSU: Morehead State University encourages their students to get practical experience through their initiatives to help local nonprofits. A senior student, Brandi Adams, did our 990 tax report under the supervision of her teacher, Ms. Deborah Madden. Three campus social clubs helped us advertise our two Pizza Hut nights that gathered enough to support two senior students for a semester. Two MSU Chinese graduate students, Dorothy Juran and Abby Lou, designed the new logo featured here.


Senior students, Jessica Garrish, Bill Crain, Miranda Cox, and I are working on a new web page and database that will allow all our information to be retrieved from the internet in both public and private ways. We have edited all our student’s pictures past and present and coded them by schools. It is such a big job that the project will be extended to next semester. Jessica is also working on a Google Earth overlay that will feature our Blessing Hands students and hopefully attract new donors and sponsors.

SPONSORS NEEDED: Forty-eight of our students have active sponsors. We also really appreciate those that are supporting our seven male college scholarship students. Some pay extra for their student’s room and board or actually visit their students. Nina Ottinger from Founding Family Charitable Foundation just returned from China where she visited her sponsored children in Yangshuo and checked on the Blessing Hands students who received FFCF eyeglasses in Qinzhou. Her traveling companion, Anita Wherry, was delighted to meet her own two students.

What a dream come true to finally meet my special students, May and Lily. They enthusiastically greeted me by name. We exchanged gifts, but their thank you letters written in English are my greatest treasure. I left that day determined to be a better pen pal and financial supporter. –Anita Wherry


About four hundred of our students need sponsors not only to support them financially but to feed their soul with friendships through e-mail or letters. We support them through program funds but how much better it would be if each had caring sponsors. Please consider sponsoring one of our students. Unfortunately the dropping of the dollar against the yuan has forced the board to raise the support for high school students to $80 a semester. The middle school support will remain $25 while primary children still get $10 a semester. Their tuition is paid by the government now, so what we give them goes for room and board or school supplies and books.


VOLUNTEER REPORTS: Our college students are sending in reports about their volunteer service. We have encouraged them to be Blessing Hands by creating a Zhu Fu Zhi Shou online Google Group for them to exchange ideas and report their volunteer service. Feng Min is volunteering in an AIDS service project at her medical school. Guilian, Daolin, Katie, Hong Joy, and Cherry helped older citizens, while Bamboo and Chong volunteered with children. I wish I could include all of Chong’s delightful description of her tutoring experience with a primary migrant boy displaced in the city.

Being with him reminded me of my primary school years, when I was naive. We had a very happy time in the morning. I treated him as my little brother. His academic performance is not very good. Every Saturday I will go to his primary school during this semester and learn together with him and answer academic questions he encounters. This semester I will be his volunteer tutor. - Chong


Several of our college students have sent pictures to illustrate their volunteer service

Make checks to Blessing Hands. Mail to 106 Timber Lane, Morehead, KY. 40351

Tel- 606-784-4785.

blessinghands@gmail.com or http://blessing-hands.org or http://picasaweb.google.com/blessinghands



Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chong Begins her Volunteer Service


Blessing Hands asks our college scholarship students to voluntarily perform some service project of three hours each semester and report it to encourage projects by other students. We want them to have the joy of giving and receiving blessings as a Blessing Hands representative.

Chong, who is studying to be a teacher, has volunteered to tutor a migrant worker's child more than three hours this semester. You can see from her letter below that she really enjoyed her service. I have taken out complete names for privacy and edited her letter, but the thoughts are completely hers.


Last Saturday, on October 20, I attended our school's holiday activities. The purpose of the activities is to help migrant workers and their children's learning. Migrant workers are farmers working in cities. As a result of hardships, they rarely have time to guide their children to learn; however, due to poor economic conditions, families cannot afford any tutors that teachers request. We need to help them as volunteer tutors.

We leave Guangxi University at 8:30 a.m. to start to a primary school. We will help their students. It is a small school without as much as a football field. It has a teaching building of three floors. Each floor has six classrooms, a dormitory, and two playgrounds. In this small area, they formed a school.

I was trying to help a third-year small boy. He is a scrawny little dark child who looks a bit mischievous, but he is very clever. He is called Pei. In talking to him, I understood that he is one-year-older than his smaller brother, but his learning is in the same classes. His parents are doing small businesses and are often not at home.

He keeps three rabbits and two small turtles.
Every weekend for fun, he often takes the small rabbits and small turtles for sunbathing. He and I spoke of rearing the small rabbits and small turtles, discussing what they eat and what not to feed them. In particular with rabbits, we cannot give them too much water or overfed them vegetables. Otherwise they will die. His small turtles only eats lean meat and nothing else. The first time I heard of a turtle eating meat, I found it very strange.

He was very expressive and talkative. He reminded me of my primary years, when I had a naïve, romantic look. We had a very happy morning. I adopted him as my little brother for the morning. His academic performance is not very good. Every Saturday this semester I will go to his primary school and learn together with him, answering the questions he encounters some learning difficulties with. This semester I will become his volunteer tutor.

Chong

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October Newsletter

College Scholarships: We now have twenty-three Blessing Hands college students studying everything from nuclear engineering to tourism. We have scholarships for thirteen female students and seven male scholarships. I am pasting in a thank you letter from one. The three scholarship students from last year have returned to their colleges also.

I'm very happy that I have got the college acceptance letter. I wait for it so long. With your help and love, my dream will come true. I promise that I will learn harder than before. I think you believe me.

I am too happy to express my mind. You are very kind for giving me a chance to go to college, how can I thank for your kindness? When I become a teacher, I will give my big love to all the students. Is that a good way?

Our supported college students have to maintain good grades and reapply in the spring for the next year. We encourage them to do a three hour service project each semester that they self-report to their Blessing Hands forum group or by e-mail to us. One of our college students, Cen Wanman (Doris), has recently won an English speaking contest and advanced to compete in the provincial contest. You can see her picture here.

Friendship Art Show: The open house for the Friendship Art show sponsored by Sister Cities of Morehead and Blessing Hands went very well. You can see that show online at http://blessing-hands.org/1-100%20paintings/index.html , and the pictures of the reception are located at http://picasaweb.google.com/blessinghands/FriendshipArtShowReception .
The paintings are for sale with the proceeds going to poor students in Yangshuo. Three college students from China served Chinese tea to our guests. We showed the Chinese news reel that was made of the Friendship Art Event in Yangshuo last summer. About 55 paintings are on display, and the winner, determined by a people’s choice award, will represent Yangshuo at the International Sister Cities Young Artist’s Showcase in 2008. A Chinese delegation from Yangshuo visited Morehead recently and really enjoyed our Friendship Art show.

Sister School Matches: Seven Sister Schools have now been matched with the help of the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Friendship Grant. Sister Cities of Morehead, and Blessing Hands. The first batch of pen pal letters has gone out to their pen pals in China. Sister School boxes containing fine art items are being prepared for exchange between the Sister Schools. Marvin Moore, Rowan County Superintendent of Schools, greeted the Yangshuo Delegation at a luncheon at McBrayer Elementary School. Mr. Zhou, the Director of Education in Yangshuo County, toured three area Sister Schools along with Mr. Zhou from Yangshuo City Government and Mr. Wu, the former chairman of the People’s Political Consultative Conference in Yangshuo’s area. They got many new ideas from viewing our schools from elementary to college level.

Qinzhou Ingathering: Qinzhou has just finished their fall gathering of students to receive their tuition. I’ve been getting thank you notes all week. I am including one here for your pleasure.
Hello!
I am a blessinghand-student. My name is Suhui. I am from Guangxi Qinzhou Zhaixu Middle School of China. This is the first time that I write e-mail. So I am very excited.
I am very happy, because I got the money from Blessinghand. Blessinghand gives me a big help! Thank you very much, Betty! And could you make friend with me? I am expect to received your write!

Pen Pals: You can tell from this letter that the students are eager to write pen pals. If any of you would like to write one of our students by e-mail, please let us know. We have been matching them with youth groups, schools, sororities, and clubs. Nancy Sartor from Morehead would like to write to a Chinese adult. Her e-mail is pecantal@hotmail.com. She is especially enjoys quilting and needlework.

Morehead State University Student Helpers: Our Blessing Hands intern, Megan Mraz, is speaking in area schools about her experiences in Yangshuo last summer. She is available to speak to your group, if you are near Morehead. We also have two volunteers from the Students for Free Enterprise Club working on our IRS 990 form and making suggestions about our bookkeeping. Three Morehead State University computer students have taken their senior projects with Blessing Hands. They are working on creating a data base program that will help us keep up with information, improving our website, and creating a Google Earth overlay that will show all the locations of our students and schools. Our local university has a policy of encouraging practical experiences for their students with area nonprofits.

Pizza Hut Promotion: On Tuesday November 6 and 13th, Pizza Hut in Morehead will be giving a donation to Blessing Hands for every meal bought with a coupon bearing our name. Come eat with a purpose. Coupons will be given out on campus, or you can get them from Betty Cutts.

Taiwan Program: Blessing Hands has funded a trial program in Taichung, Taiwan for one year. Emily Hsu, a graduate of Asbury Seminary, is the director there. We are starting with nine children that need support for school supplies and one child that cannot afford tuition for school. Emily works with a local Taiwanese church network called the Family Church.



Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blessing Hands August Newsletter

Scholarships: We have great news! Blessing Hands has received a scholarship fund grant from a foundation that wants to remain anonymous. This grant will fund twelve of our graduating female students for $500 scholarships. If more girls are accepted late to colleges, we hope it will cover them also. There are four female students in Yangshuo and eight in Qinzhou funded. With the gracious support of our friends and supporters, seven male scholarships have also been funded for the fall semester.

The W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation Friendship Art Grant: In partnership with Sister Cities of Morehead, Blessing Hands will receive pen pal funds for our Chinese students. The two year grant will benefit all Rowan County public and private school students, and provide money for Sister School and pen pal exchanges between Rowan County students and Yangshuo County students. Yangshuo County, China is Morehead’s Sister Cities match.

We have always promoted pen pals and sponsor communication. Now we have a way to fund return letters from China. The Sister Schools will also exchange packages containing art, music, and drama items at Christmas and Chinese New Year.

The grant will also fund a Friendship Art Show displaying Yangshuo student’s art for the month of October at the Rowan County Arts Center. The show, sponsored by Sister Cities in cooperation with Blessing Hands, will display drawings and photos produced at the Friendship Art Day in Yangshuo this summer during the Morehead Sister Cities Youth Delegation’s visit. Robert Franzini, head of the Art Department at MSU and Megan Mraz, our Blessing Hands intern, assisted with the art demonstration and participation event for Yangshuo students. Over 60 works by students aged 13-18 will be on display from October 1st through the 27th. A people’s choice award, decided by the public at the art show, will select one student’s picture to represent Yangshuo in the International Sister Cities Young Artist’s Showcase competition in 2008.

The Yangshuo paintings in the exhibit and photos from Yangshuo are available for viewing online at http://www.blessing-hands.org. Look for a link on the home page to Friendship Art Show Paintings. The paintings will be sold in a silent auction that will benefit any poor child of Yangshuo County who needs educational help. You can register a bid by e-mailing blessinghands@gmail.com. Some paintings are really outstanding. Checks should be made to Sister Cities of Morehead, if you buy a painting on line or in the silent auction at the show. Your online bids will be placed with the silent auction bids at the art show. Someone may out bid you.

Charity Parade and Fair: Blessing Hands is participating again this year in the rowanreview.com Charity Parade and Fair event in Morehead. Rowanreview.com is encouraging people to give items to 10 local charities over a 14 day period. Starting on the 12th of September, contestants can go online to see announcements by charities each night at 8 p.m. on Rowanreview.com. People will be asked to "parade" to the featured charity locations and donate small items like shampoo, detergent, or towels. The charities get a lot of items and publicity, and the contestants get prizes and free food at the Charity Fair held at the end of the 14 days. The contestants sign a sheet at each charity to show their participation and provide names for the drawing on the 27th. During the “parade” part, Blessing Hands will have public displays at US Bank, China Café, and China Star Restaurant to promote for sponsors and pen pals for our students.

Three prizes of $500, $300, $200 will be drawn at the Charity Fair from the names of the participants. Winners will give half of their prize to the charity or community organization of their choice. The Charity Fair will be held at 6:00 pm at the Wesley Hall of the Morehead Methodist Church on September 27th. Charities will have tables to display their missions and answer questions. If you live in the Morehead area, come by to hear Four Square City, a local Bluegrass group, play gospel music. Jeff Fannin, an advisory board member of Blessing Hands, will also share some of his songs. Many local restaurants have given coupons for free meals as door prizes.

Make donation checks to Blessing Hands and mail to106 Timber Lane, Morehead, KY. 40351 or click on the donation button at the top of the blog.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wu Needs a Scholarship



Wu is from Qinzhou, China. His tuition would be $607 for a year. I will let him speak for himself.


Thank you for your love and care. Because of your help, I have successfully completed high school. Now a university has accepted me. I am really very happy, because I have a dream to become a lawyer, and the school is training these personnel areas. In other words, I will realize my dream from a day far away.


However, there are difficulties to come. There is a huge tuition, so I am in trouble. My household numbers six. I have a grandfather, grandmother, and father who have a disease. We have almost lost their labor. My mother and brother’s yearly meager income is not enough to pay for their want to give up my dream. The university has been in me and my family's dreams, and I have been working toward it. Now, I do not want to let this opportunity slip away.


I know that only knowledge can change my destiny.I really hope you will seriously consider my request, and I would be most grateful. In the future, I will develop a lot of Blessing Hand’s selfless spirit. I will do my utmost to help those who need help.


Thank you!


Would you like to help Wu fulfill his dream? You can contribute with the button at the top of the blog or by writing us e-mail at blessinghands@gmail.com. Checks can be sent to Blessing Hands, 106 Timber Lane, Morehead, KY 40351. Great News. Wu has been fully funded by a local college teacher and a doctor, who was born in China.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Liang (Maxim) Needs $528 in Scholarship Money for College



You folks are really great! Over a thousand dollars has been pledged toward the college scholarships for the boys in just one day. He wants to be an engineer and has been accepted into an institute of technology. Someone has pledged $100 toward his tuition.

Late breaking News -
another $200 now applies to Maxim's tuition. He just lacks $228 for his spring semester now.

Liao Needs $400 to Go to College.


Liao's family makes About $340 US a year from their farm land. He dreams of majoring in Biology at an agricultural college. His tuition for a year is $400. I have pasted reference letters written by his village leader and his teacher below.


I am the village committee member. Liao is a resident in our village. I would like to explain this student’s situation to you.

Background and status: He has 6 family members and two of them are working. His grandparents are very old and sick. They have small farming land so his family is very poor.


Liao’s personal status: He is a hardworking and frugal student. He studied so hard that he obtained an excellent academic result and can go to a university.

I would like to certify that all the above information is true and hope you can give a helpful hand to support and help him, so that he can continue his further study and become a man of great ability in our country.

Liao (name withheld for privacy)
(Village Committee Member)

Dear Respectful Board members,

Liao went to Yangshuo Middle school in September 2004, and he graduated in June 2007. He is concerned about national issues, and he is a person that obeys the rules and laws very much. In general, he has a high discipline for himself with good attitudes towards life and social values. He is able to improve his weaknesses and always behaves himself. During the school years, he obeyed the school rules and respected the examination without cheating. He respected teachers and cooperated with other students. He had a good attitude towards learning, so he has been rewarded with a scholarship before too.

Liao got excellent academic result in all subjects, and he is a responsible student. He worked seriously to his tasks and helped the school to work for many projects without any complaints. He is such a very hard working student. Besides that, he enjoys group activities and is concerned about others’ benefits as well. He cares about his classmates so much that he helped them to solve problems. He was named as “OUTSTANDING STUDENT”.

According to my observation during the past 3 years, Liao is an outstanding student in both behavior and academic performance. I hope your organization can help him.

Best Regards,

(Teacher)
2nd July 2007

If you would like to help Liao go to college you can donate with the button at the top of the blog and write us at blessinghands@gmail.com. The need is urgent since the college will start classes soon.

Liao just got a sponsor for the first semester. Blogging his needs worked. I am so glad. Read on for other students who need sponsors for their college expenses.

I want to thank all the people who helped to translate these letters.


Liu (Leo) Would Like to Go to College.


Leo needs $488 US to pay his tuition for a year at a chemistry and science college he wants to attend. Chinese universities are very specialized and hard to get into. First you have three choices of universities that you can ask to be admitted to. Then you have to pass a national test that the whole country presses toward every June. If you make a high score, you still might not get to go to college, if the college you choose does not select you. Leo has gotten the coveted acceptance letter to his college of choice. Leo's family makes about $700 a year. I have pasted his application for a Blessing Hands scholarship here.

3rd June 2007

Blessing Hands,

My name is Liu (Leo). My family has a small piece of farming land which is only 2 to 3 acres in total. If we all rely on farming, we cannot support our living at all. Therefore, my parents need to find some other jobs to earn our living. Many years ago, my father found a job that employed people to hit stones in the hills. That was a very hard tough job, and he got hurt from that job. His health was getting worse at that time. Therefore, we spent lots of money for his medical expenses. Although he is getting much better now, he still cannot do through work. Now, he can only do some farm work at our small farm land in order to earn some money. Moreover, my mother has found a job near our home. Her salary is very low, but that money still can help a little bit to our living. On the other hand, she can also take care of the family due to the short working distance.

I studied in Higher Middle School last year. Its annual tuition fee was $6000 to $7000 (Yuan) which intensified my family’s burden. My family was too poor to afford this, and the expensive tuition fee led my family to a very difficult situation. Last summer, I started to receive your support, and it helped my family’s finances a lot and reduced my parents’ pressure and burden. I will go to university this year, and the expensive tuition fee has become a big problem to me again. I worry about it very much, and I don’t know what to do.

However, I have heard that Blessing Hands has supported students financially to go to a university, and three students received the scholarship. Therefore, my home class teacher recommended me to apply for a scholarship from Blessing Hands in order to solve my financial problems and stress, so that I can go to university and graduate.

I clearly understand that I must use that money correctly since it comes with a good timing, and it is so precious as well. I must not waste any money and will use all the money for my study only. If I can go to a university, I will work very hard and learn useful knowledge, so that I would not disappoint you. Moreover, I would like to thank you for all your concern and help for me the past year. I promise to study very hard and become a useful person in society.

Best Regards,

Liu (Leo)

If you would like to support Leo's college tuition or help support it, you can donate at the top of the blog. He needs the tuition very soon, so don't delay.

Some one has just pledged to give $100 to Leo. That is good news. Maybe someone else will give a $150 to pay for his first semester at college this fall.

Great, someone just pledged $150 to complete Leo's scholarship for the first semester. Now he only needs another $250 to pay for his spring semester. We usually give $500 scholarships. If that is more than their tuition comes to, then they can spend the rest on books or room and board.

Li (James) Needs Money to go to College


Li is from Guangxi Province. He wants to study hydrology and needs $650 US in university tuition. He already has two sponsors who have pledged $100 each for the fall semester and another has given $66. Late breaking news is that James now has his fall semester. He still needs another $325 for spring. Blessing Hands usually only gives $500 in scholarships to each student, but if someone wants to especially donate the extra amount for James, I am sure he would appreciate it. I have pasted his application letter below.

Dear Blessing Hands members,

How are you? I am glad to receive your sponsorship, so that I can complete high school and live happily and healthily with your care and love. I passed my high school examination this summer, but my family cannot afford the expensive tuition fee for the university. However, I heard that Blessing Hands has a scholarship, and I am writing to apply for it. I feel very honored and blessed to have such an opportunity to apply for it, because I know there are still many kind and nice people who would like to help people in need like me.

Here, I truly thank Blessing Hands, which can give me an opportunity to apply for the scholarship. I hope it can help me to complete university studies and learn skills and knowledge, so that I can accomplish my dreams and bear my own responsibilities and duties. Also I can help people in the future and let those people in need be helped so that they won’t have to suffer. I will spread love to those people around me and let the love fill society.

James needs scholarship help immediately to get to school on time. If you want to donate, just use the button at the top of the blog and send us e-mail at blessinghands@gmail.com.




Yu (Jonathan) Needs a College Scholarship Sponsor

This young man would like to go to college but the tuition is $422 a year, and his family cannot afford that. He loves computers and has been accepted into a good college. Below I have pasted his application letter with some personal things edited out.


Dear Blessing Hands:

I am a high school graduate and just took my college examination in June. I am looking forward to college life and hope that I will have such an opportunity. I know how important knowledge is to people. It is knowledge that helps a society develop. Also, knowledge helped me to mature from humble beginnings.


I have been supported by Blessing Hands for two years---. The only thing that gives me courage to apply is the strong motivation that I have to study. Now the examination is over, and I have filed my choices for universities. --- My family cannot afford it. My mother told me to go ahead and just study and not worry about money while my dad didn’t say anything. ---- It takes the income of thirty farmers to support one college student. This is from a report that I read in the newspaper. ---- I cannot hold back my desire to go to college. I have been out of school for almost half of a month and have been working for a while which has caused me to realize how important knowledge is.

I very sincerely request your consideration of this application for assistance from Blessing Hands. I promise in the future that I will definitely carry the torch of Blessing Hands program of helping others. This is what I remember hearing Betty say at one of the Blessing Hands events. I also remember her saying that the purpose of helping others is not to receive something back from them but is for those who are helped to continue to help even more people also.

If you would like to help this young man go to college, you can donate through the button at the top of our blog and write us at blessinghands@gmail.com. Let's give this fellow a chance to meet his dream. His need is immediate so please decide right now.

Good News! Someone has just pledged $100 for Jonathan for his first semester in college. Maybe you want to contribute the other $150 to get him started in college.

More good news. Jonathan just got the $150 pledge and will have his first semester paid for. Now he just needs $250 for the spring semester. Maybe you will help him with that.



Male Scholarship Sponsors Needed

This is Betty Cutts blogging to you. We have a urgent need to present to folks who are interested in education and especially educating deserving young men. Blessing Hands has been blessed to have an opportunity to apply for college scholarships for our graduating students, but the foundation is interested in helping girls. We presently have 12 girls who have completed their applications and been accepted by a college. We are hoping that all of them will get grants for college.

We also have three scholarships to award to boys from our Blessing Hands budget this school year. However, seven deserving young men have applied for the three scholarships. As we read their applications and letters, we can't bear to choose only three. Someone suggested today that we should put information about them online and ask our supporters and friends to help. The cost of tuition at Chinese universities averages about $500 US a year. What a bargain for a first rate education.! That is the amount that we have settled on to give our students, although special sponsors sometimes pay more for students they have sponsored all along. I want to introduce one of our applicants.

Gao is from the Guangxi Province, and he wants to be a doctor. His family's income as farmers is about $471 US a year. How can they afford the $607 yearly tuition at the college that has accepted him? His teacher highly recommends him.

Gao --- is a very good student in my class. He works very hard and has a high GPA. He also has a very good relationship with classmates and teachers.

If you would like to be a supporter of Gao, you can donate with the button at the top of our blog and contact us personally at blessinghands@gmail.com. You can share in his support or take his complete support depending on your desire. He needs this support immediately since college starts very soon.

Gao now has a sponsor for full tuition for both fall and spring semester. Thanks so much



Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blessing Hands Receives Humanitarian Award


Betty Cutts recently received an award from the Provincial Government of Guangxi Province for her humanitarian work with the students of Yangshuo and Qinzhou, China. This was a great honor, since the award had never before been given to a foreigner.

Zhou Xiaodong, the Yangshuo Bureau of Education Chief, presented the award while Malan Cai, Blessing Hands administrator, translated for the presentation ceremony.

Carolyn Franzini of Morehead, who was in Yangshuo with the Sister Cities Summer Youth Delegation, accepted the plaque for Betty who was in Taiwan at the time. The nomination was submitted by the Educational Department of Yangshuo County, where Blessing Hands gave educational support to 260 students in 58 schools during the last school year.

Five college scholarships were also given to Blessing Hands students last year. You can find out more about the mission of Blessing Hands at http://blessing-hands.org.

Teaching English at Xing Ping

July 4th, 2007

Today we visited Xing Ping Primary School, where I taught an English lesson for Andy Liang's third grade class. I was slightly anxious about the lesson, since I had no information on the class (other than the grade level) or the students' English capabilities beforehand.

I entered the classroom and presented Andy Liang with a gift. Then, I walked to the front of the room. As I went to my place, the kids yelled a robust "Hello!!!" I, of course, returned the greeting. After asking them as to how they were doing, I began pulling out various 8X10 pictures I had. The first one was of my mother. Pointing, I said, "This is my mother." I then wrote "mother" on the board with the phrase "This is my _____" above it. I had them read the sentence with me. I repeated this format as I showed them pictures of my father, sister, grandparents, and dog (supplementing the list with the words "brother," "cat," and "family"). To finalize this portion of the lesson, I pointed to each phrase and word on the board, while the students would say, "This is my mother," "This is my father," "This is my dog," and so on. I pointed out to them, however, that when inserting "grandparents" into the phrase, the sentence should be "THESE ARE my grandparents."

I wrote on the board, "Do you have a _____." I went around the room, asking various students simple questions like "Do you have a brother?" The student would stand up and politely respond, "Yes, I do" or "No, I do not." Then (while pointing to myself), I told the students, "My name is Megan." On the board I wrote, "What is your name?" and had the kids read this phrase. I went around the room, asking various students this question. Finally, I wrote, "The name of my ____ is" on the board (which they read aloud), and again I asked various students for the names of their brothers, sisters, etc.

Next, we played a little game. I actually had to quickly modify the game a great deal (which I had assessed upon entering the classroom), as the classroom had very little extra space and the desks were all in tight rows. I took out a ball of yarn and walked to the student at the end of the front row. I asked her, "Do you have a sister?" To which she replied, "Yes, I do." I handed her the ball of yarn, instructing her to turn to the next person to ask a different kind of question (using the terms and questions from the day's lesson). This pattern would continue throughout the whole room, row by row. Some of the kids were very shy about their English skills, while others were pretty confident. The students were very quick to help a struggling peer. With each passing of the ball of yarn, the giving student would say, "Here you are!" and the receiving student replied with "Thank you!" (Note: they did this all on their own! Such polite students!). Every once in a while, I would help the students make small corrections with the way they worded a question. For instance, one child inquired, "What is the name of sister?" I gently corrected him by remarking, "What is the name of YOUR sister?" Each student from then on was very careful to include the "your" part.

At the end of the lesson, the youth delegates from Morehead, along with Laura Franzini, graciously came to the head of the classroom. The students were given time to interact with them, asking them questions such as, "What do you like to eat?" and "What did you have for breakfast?" Each person from Morehead would respond and then return the question to the student. After each child had given an appropriate reply, we would present them with a small gift (namely, tattoos donated by MSU Athletics and stickers). The students were very excited to receive such gifts).

I was pretty pleased with the lesson, especially since beforehand I had had no idea of the number of students, the classroom layout, and (most importantly) their knowledge of and ability to use the English language. The children were extremely attentive, eager, and polite... and were very quick to catch on! While the material may have been a little below their level, I think it was appropriate in order to raise their confidence levels when interacting with an English-speaking person.

Next, we headed to an office to meet with the principal and the Blessing Hands students. As I climbed the staircase to the correct floor, I saw about 30 smiling children at the top of the staircase eagerly waiting for me. As soon as I reached the top, they started to excitedly thrust various drawings into my hands, saying, "Here you are!" A flurry of artwork flew in from all directions! As I watched the chaotic stack of drawings pile up in my hands, I laughed and repeatedly said, "Thank you! Thank you!" The artwork had been created by some of Xing Ping's students for their Sister School in Morehead. This moment is probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.

I presented the principal with a present, then gave the Blessing Hands students some small gifts. They were all extremely grateful. We got a photo with these students. After the meeting, we handed out gifts to the students who had created the artwork for the Sister School.

The students then rushed out to the courtyard, where Matt Collins gave a skateboard demonstration. The children were mesmerized as he deftly jumped, flipped, and zoomed past them on his skateboard. After showing the entranced young students what could be done with a skateboard, Matt then offered for the children to try their hand (or shall I say, feet?) at skateboarding. Out of the huge, excited crowd of kids, one little girl bravely stepped up to bat. Matt held the board steady as she climbed on, then guided her by holding her hands as she rolled along the concrete. All of a sudden, everyone wanted a turn! The children rushed to snatch a good place in line, in the hopes that they too might get a ride. Matt's demonstration was definitely a hit!

To close, I would like to take this time to thank Carolyn Franzini, who greatly helped me in planning the English lesson... and even provided the ball of yarn! She has such a great source of knowledge and support.

That concludes this day's school adventures! This trip was our last school visit.



Students at Xing Ping

Monday, July 30, 2007

Learning More about Chinese Education

Hey everyone! Sorry for the brief hiatus in blogs... I've been out of town. Now, to continue with the trip:

July 3rd, 2007

This day was extremely busy. We visited 3 schools: Putao Primary, Putao Middle, and Yangshuo Middle School. At each school I gave the principal and the Blessing Hands students gifts. At Putao Primary School, we gave them the English books sent by McBrayer Elementary School as a way to invite them to become Sister Schools. Putao Primary was very interested in this opportunity; they actually had tried to send an e-mail to the Morehead school, but the e-mail was returned... the principal thinks the problem stems from the computer itself malfunctioning. We told them that we understand, that we will be sure to let McBrayer's principal know the situation. Hopefully, McBrayer will be able to send some penpal letters to Putao Primary. Later that afternoon, we made steamed dumplings at Putao Middle School... and they were delicious!

Tomorrow, we will go to XingPing Primary School, where I will teach a 45-minute English lesson. It's going to be very challenging for several reasons. #1 - The little kids are shy to speak English in front of foreigners... and #2 - I'm not sure how much English they already know. However, I think it will be a great experience, especially as I am an education major!

During this trip, I have really enjoyed learning about the Chinese education system. Their school day is VERY different. First off, they get a really long break in the afternoon (in the summer it's from about 12:30-2:30) after lunch for nap time, as it is so hot here. They finish school at around 5-5:30. Secondly, the school is set up very differently. Even in the primary schools, it's more like a college campus. There are gardens, basketball courts, lakes, dining halls, dormitories (some kids live too far away to travel every day), various classroom buildings, and so on. At lunch, the children all bring their own rice bowl to the lunch lady, and she cuts out a square of sticky rice from this large pan and plops it in their bowl (along with meats and vegetables). All the kids wash their own rice bowls after eating. They also are responsible for keeping the school itself clean, and I often saw children with brooms and buckets walking around the schools. Imagine if American students were responsible for cleaning their schools! Finally, the kids are outside MUCH more, playing basketball, running around, and so on. This goes along with the Chinese philosophy of maintaining a healthy body.

Well, tomorrow it's off to Xing Ping... along with a boat ride on the Li River and a viewing of the famous Yangshuo Light Show!

The Blessing Hands students at Putao Middle

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yangshuo Experimental Middle School

JULY 2nd, 2007 (again!)

On the agenda for the day was a visit to Yangshuo Experimental Middle School, in which we would all stay for an entire school day. Please note, while the title says "middle school," it's actually a combination of our middle and high school.

The school was a lengthy walk from where we were staying. As we walked the small slope up to the school, we were greeted by a good-sized banner that made us feel very welcome. JK and Matt's "mother" (Jessica), the honorary principal, and a few selected students showed us around the campus of the school. During the tour, I was extremely impressed by the beauty of the school. To give you an idea of the campus, picture many buildings (including a dining hall, auditorium, dormitory, and classrooms) making a half-moon formation around basketball courts and a garden with winding stone paths. The waving trees and blankets of green grass were a perfect foil to the stark school buildings. Yangshuo Experimental Middle School was gorgeous.

After the raising of the flag and a short speech by the principal, our group gathered in a meeting room with Jessica, the principal, the honorary principal, and (at my request) the Blessing Hands students. I seized the opportunity to give the principal and the Blessing Hands children gifts donated by businesses around Morehead. They were very appreciative.

Throughout the day, we had many different activities, including a lunch at the school, a basketball game (as they put it on the scoreboard, "U.S. vs. China"), tire races, and music/drama/dance performances by the teachers, schoolchildren, and our group. Mr. Franzini led our group in a singing of "My Old Kentucky Home." The day was punctuated with several photographic opportunities.

At the end of the day, the honorary principal and principal sent us away with some nice gifts. We were tired but very pleased.


Tomorrow: Putao Primary, Putao Middle, and Yangshuo Middle!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dilemma

July 2nd, 2007

Beginning on July 1st, Mr. and Mrs. Franzini and I (along with the help of Steve Barker, Malan Cai, and Johnny Lu) have been interviewing candidates for the Blessing Hands scholarship. We completed a few more interviews today, with a grand total of fourteen hopefuls (BLOGGER'S NOTE: We ended up interviewing one last scholarship applicant later on in the trip). Choosing our top picks for the scholarship was extremely difficult. And eye-opening.

The stories were heartbreaking. Some of the children had only one parent, or lived with a friend or sibling. With such situations comes an immense burden on the most capable of the family - be it a grandparent or even an older sister - to have a well-enough-paying job. During the summers when school is not in session, these students work in farms, bakeries, factories, and so on in order to supplement the family income.

In America, we do not realize how wealthy we are. Even I, as a "poor college student," have more money than an entire family of one of the candidates we interviewed. Wow. I could not believe it! This family makes only 800 yuan a year, which translates roughly into 100 DOLLARS A YEAR.

When asked the question, "If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?", many children gave sobering answers. One student said, "I would like to have a different lifestyle - to relieve the burden on my family." Another noted, "I would like my grandpa, who is crippled and has been in bed for two years now - to be able to walk again."

However, these children were not complaining... nor were they looking for sympathy. They were very matter-of-fact, while their kind hearts were evident. Many of the students' reasons for going to college were enmeshed in their desires to make money for their families, in hopes that they might have a better life. One boy even said he would like to be able to make enough to support his younger brother in receiving a college education. Amazing.

I wish all of these students could receive a scholarship, a college education, and a new chance at life.

Unfortunately, a few of the students have national test scores that quietly urge them to return to high school for another year, in hopes of raising their test score so that they may attend a better college (the better the college, the cheaper the tuition). Yet, another year in high school means more money, since the government does not fund education at this grade level. For poor students with lackluster test scores, this decision is a toss-up: "Should I raise my test score but pay for another year of high school... or accept the test score and go to a lower, more expensive university?"

I am so thankful that I am not the one choosing who will receive the scholarship. My heart goes out to all of these children.


While these children are not the current scholarship applicants, will they be able to afford college... and the chance for a better life?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm Back!

Hello Everyone!

First, I would like to apologize for not being able to access the blog while I was in China. Now that I am back in the United States, I would like to share some of the experiences I had as a Blessing Hands intern in Yangshuo (and in the surrounding towns). I will try to break these stories (which were written while in China) down into different blogs for easier reading.

July 1st, 2007
Today we hosted our "Friendship Art Day" in Yangshuo. As I walked past the building where the event was to occur, I noticed many sights that demonstrated how the event had been highly anticipated in the area. Those who were hosting the event had hung a huge red banner at the site, letting everyone know of the "Live Painting Show" with the Sister Cities of Morehead and Yangshuo. Outside the building, many children (carting various art paraphernalia) were waiting calmly beside the locked entrance doors until the event would begin. Too, Gloria Wei had informed us that many students - those who were unable to be in attendance today - had sent in their artwork for the show. Already we were off to a great start!


As the event unfolded, about 50-60 students (ages 13-18) piled into the courtyard and began spreading out their art supplies onto the sun-speckled wooden desks. No student seemed at a loss as to where to begin; each had a specific idea of what to create and remained very focused on the task at hand. The children were engaged in all types of media, from oil paint to pencil. I was fascinated to observe how their meticulous brush strokes transformed into amazing pieces. At one desk, huge pink flowers blossomed... at another, a gray and black eagle perched, commanding his territory... at another, two painted geishas giggled surreptitiously in a corner... at yet another, a smiling child held hands with the Earth, proclaiming a love for peace.

I was extremely impressed with the talent pouring from such young hands.

The Art Day schedule was highlighted by the presence of Mayor Li, as well as by the beautiful demonstrations by several talented artists. These artists were four painters from China, Dr. Bob Franzini (who chose to create charcoal portraits for the event which would remain in Yangshuo), Taral Thompson, and Matt Collins. The Chinese students were all very interested in the demonstrations.

In short, the event was a melding of East and West... an open exchange of centuries-old techniques, well-constructed comments and praise, and flowing gradients of color. Everyone - from the young artists to the virtuosos, from the Chinese to the Americans - was very pleased with the event. I would definitely call it a success. I am looking forward to sharing the best of these impressive works with all of you at the Art Show in Morehead.


Until next time,
Meg

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Megan Mraz Joins the Blog

Hi everyone!

As you know, I am the Blessing Hands intern for Summer-Fall of 2007. Currently, I am preparing to travel to China on June 24th, first arriving in Beijing and then in Yangshuo (where I will remain the majority of my stay). I will return to the United States on July 13th. During the weeks in China, I will be very busy with many different activities, including: visiting Blessing Hands scholarship candidates, hosting an art day, photographing the area, and meeting with schools around the region to discuss becoming "Sister Schools" with those in Morehead. I will try my best to blog during this time... however, because access to this site while in China is not guaranteed, I may have to post my experiences when I return to America.

I still have a fair amount of preparation to do (especially packing -- what a challenge that will be!), but I am extremely excited about the trip! As an Elementary Education major, I am very interested in the school atmosphere and love working with children. I also am a huge photography buff, so I can definitely reassure Mrs. Cutts that I will be taking pictures of anything and everything! Most of all, I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve others.

Yes, I sometimes get a little nervous about the trip... this voyage is definitely out of my comfort zone! However, I believe I need to challenge myself, to experience another culture, to see what life is like outside of the United States, to open my eyes to the needs present all around the world. What better way than to serve through Blessing Hands?

This internship is definitely an opportunity I will never forget. I am extremely thankful and blessed to be apart of something so much bigger than I. I can not wait to hop on that plane and get started!

Now, if I could just automatically become fluent in Chinese....

Friendship Art Show


We are applying for a grant. The Friendship Grant will encourage exchanges of pen pal letters, art, and Sister School relationships between Rowan County, Kentucky and our Blessing Hands students in China. Megan Mraz, our Morehead State University intern, will help get friendship exchanges started with a Friendship Art Day in Yangshuo in July, while she is there with the Morehead Sister Cities Delegation. The Blessing Hands students and other Yangshuo high school students will be invited to a Friendship Art Day. They will be encouraged to create a painting to send back to Morehead for a Friendship Art Show in our new Morehead Arts Center. We expect 95 of our students to send paintings for the show.

A people's choice award will be given at the show to the winning painting, which will be sent as an entry to the International Sister Cities Young Artist's Competition to represent Yangshuo. People at the International Sister Cities Conference in 2008 will see it, and if it is chosen to win there, it will become part of International Sister Cities promotions. Megan will also encourage the students to write to pen pals in Rowan County, sending them paintings.

Megan will be visiting schools in Yangshuo County, which want to be sister schools with Rowan County schools. She will take pictures and gifts back to nine schools in Morehead that might want to partner with them for Sister School exchanges. On the outgoing trip her suitcase will be full with gifts for teachers and schools. Coming back she will be carrying paintings, letters, and gifts to schools and individuals in the USA. All this takes money, so we are applying for a grant to help with the Friendship Art Show and pen pal letter exchanges.

When Megan returns, she and I will be visiting Rowan County Schools and organizations to show some of the paintings and encourage students to view the Friendship Art Show in person and on the Internet. You can see the paintings on the internet too. Megan plans to be an elementary school teacher, so she will enjoy teaching an English Class at Xingping Primary School and interacting with Rowan County primary students when she returns. She will also help with mounting the pictures for the art show and display some of her own photos from her trip to Yangshuo. She is an artist in her own right. I have asked her to post to the blog as well. She will be a busy young lady, but she will get college credit for her work with Blessing Hands.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

We had a wonderful time at Baisha Higher Middle School. The students were so excited to meet us and we were equally happy to meet them. They had little gifts to give us like hand knitted items, jars of folded stars, and a large handmade card. They all had practiced giving self introductions. I wish I spoke Chinese as well as they did English. These photos were just sent to me. Nina had them in her luggage that was lost at the airport for nearly a month.
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As I sat on the platform at the public program in Yangshuo, I was able to recognize individual students who I knew from photos, letters, or school visits. I was delighted by the program they presented for us. Each high school did a song, dance, or musical number. There was a special Chinese band and dancing girls in costumes. Some of the students gave thank you speeches in English, and Nina and I even got to say something. They presented us with banners of appreciation and many smiles. Maybe you can see one of your sponsored students.
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Malan Cai, my good friend and interpreter, helps us with administration of Blessing Hands funds in Yangshuo. It was such a pleasure to spend some time with her again. She is a wonderful interpreter because she knows me so well, she could give the speech herself. Here I was telling the students about the art event we are planning this summer with our summer intern Megan Marz.

We will gather the high school students and the junior high students who live in town and have a half day art event with them. Megan, who is an artist herself, and Bob Franzini, who is head of the Art Department at Morehead State University, will host the event with the organizational ability of the Education Department. Each student will be encouraged to send a watercolor painting back to Morehead. With Sister Cities' help, in the fall we will display the paintings at the Old Court House, which has become an art center. The people's choice winner of that show will be entered in the Sister Cities International Youth Showcase representing Yangshou, our Sister City. The students were excited to hear about the upcoming activity.
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These Yangshuo girls wanted to have their picture taken with Nina Ottinger from the Founding Family Charitable Trust. Nina and I traveled all over for two weeks and had a wonderful time giving out tuitions and small gifts to the students. They thought we were famous, and we thought they were wonderful. They all love to make the victory sign when you take a picture. These girls are from Yangshou Higher Middle School and Baisha Higher Middle School. Nina has her own adopted Chinese daughter. I tell her that when you love one Chines girl, you love them all.
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This junior high student received some special New Year gifts from his sponsor who wanted to do more than just pay for his school supplies. I was so glad that I found him in the crowd of students that had gathered for the program at the Yangshuo Experimental Middle School of Foreign Languages.
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These are our three college scholarship girls. They were home for the Chinese New Year and came to the ingathering tuition ceremony in Yangshuo. They are holding their tuition money for the next semester. Jenny is on the left. Anna is in the middle; and Lily is on the right. It was such a joy to see them happy and well. They had some home sickness the first semester, but have adjusted to college well. They all three write to me by e-mail. We hope to have a lot more scholarships available this summer. We are applying for some scholarship grants from two foundations.
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I got to speak to Qin Ling Zhu while I was in Yangshuo. She is the little girl that had the tumor removed twice. The last time was in the fall when a Chinese/American artist gave her money for the operation in Shanghai. She is recovered from that operation. She spoke to me in very good English when I asked her how she was. She answered without hesitating that she was fine. She gave me a little mobile that she had made and a clay figure of a snail. Her face looked much better, but there is still some swelling around the left eye. She has always be so thoughtful with her handmade gifts for me.
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