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  • Writer's pictureBetter Education for Stronger Teeth

BEST in Guizhou

Updated: Sep 15, 2018

Xinlong Elementary students in Chinese class

During the Thanksgiving of 2017, BEST partnered with Yitianshi, a Chinese nonprofit that focuses on encouraging children to engage in community service, to serve children in Guizhou.

Diana Yue (CEO) and volunteers Sarah Yue and Astin Lin, traveled 3 hours on a plane, 1 hour on a bus, then another hour on a car to see Xinlong Elementary School located in the deep mountains of rural Guizhou, China. We were later told that, due to the mountains and the sparse housing of these farming houses, some students have to walk 3 hours to school each day. They wake up at 4 AM and arrive at 7:30 AM.

The visit spanned a week. BEST members and Yitianshi kicked off the event by first implementing a new library project by Yitianshi to create book supplies and a learning environment for the local students. In the two days, all volunteers wiped floors, assembled book shelves, and decorated walls.

On the third day, BEST volunteers conducted workshops on the importance of education for 132 students at Xinlong Elementary school and 362 kids at Dawa Elementary School. Both schools are suffering from both poverty and severe water scarcity. Because of their terrible location, their water sources are not only scarce but often contaminated. Their rivers, which are the local's drinking source since the beginning of the village's time, contain heavy fluoride, serving as acid to the locals' teeth after decades of consumption. A limited opportunity these schools have is government supplied water that comes once a week. However, it still doesn't fulfill the schools' need for all activities: cooking food, managing personal hygiene, and flushing the toilet.

Despite the difficult conditions, these kids are extremely bright and the workshops were extremely successful. The school principals and teachers are currently continuing BEST's mission by not only promoting good oral hygiene habits but setting standard times for boarding students to brush their teeth.

Students at Xinlong Elementary School

After the workshops the teachers told us that they are grateful and happy for the opportunities these kids now receives. "When I was their age, hygiene and social issues were never my concern", the principal at Xinlong Elementary School said: "My only worry was whether there will be food the next day". The teachers tell me they are one of the most well-paid people in the village besides government officials. With potato and corn farming as the only option to these villagers, many earn less than $50 dollars a month. This causes many adults to work in the cities, were jobs are slightly more lucrative. Yet, this creates everlasting scars and trauma to these young children who often only see their parents 2-3 times a year. During this time, they stay with their grandparents, who not only farms and looks after the grandkids, but also take care of their parents. All these limitations cause these children to become caretakers of the house. Many come home around 6 PM and finishes all chores of the family in 3 hours. This includes cleaning the house, feeding the animals, and cooking meals. These kids trapped between studies and chores with no time for relaxation for hobbies.

Circumstances were even worse for past generations. Not only did the current teachers grow up constantly with an empty stomach and overworked body, they were also victims of tradition and conservative thinking. According to a 30-year-old teacher told me he also married at the age of 15 and wanted to give up his studies. Fortunately, his mother's severe illness at the time halted his thought and motivated him to pursue his education. Although child marriage is rarer now, certain kids, majority girls, are still arranged to marry strangers for financial benefits certain families need to survive.

Despite the difficulties, circumstances are improving. BEST has established permanent collaborations with the 3 schools to better the children's lives starting with a bright, confident smile.

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