Michigan State University recently began engaging the entire global MSU community in a “Global Service Day.” It is a great cause that gives Spartans an opportunity to collectively give back in one, big, global effort. On April 18, Spartans around the world will organize their alumni clubs to engage in service projects in their community. The website they’ve put together is pretty cool; you can follow the activities of Spartans around the globe on #MSUServiceDay on Twitter.
Our alumni club in Beijing wanted to get involved in this great event, and began seeking opportunities where we could make an impact. One of the advisors for our club is a professor at Eastern Michigan University (we Michiganders in China stick together!), and she has been volunteering at this place called the Rural Women’s School of Beijing (officially known as the “Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women”). I decided to look into it, and after visiting, I knew right away this was a great cause for us to get behind.
What is the Rural Women’s School of Beijing?
From the English website: “The Center is an NGO promoting the advancement and personal development of rural women. It includes the Practical Skills Training Center for Rural Women, the Migrant Women’s Club, Rural Women Magazine ‘s grassroots activities centers and projects for women’s development in rural communities. It is a non-profit organization with an integrated program that “supports the poor and empowers rural women by combining development projects, news media and information services, and dissemination of the outcome of our research.”
Looking deeper, I found that the original founder, Wu Qing, was a revered member of the Beijing
Municipal People’s Congress, and is even a Schwab Social Entrepreneurship Award winner.
The school is administered by Principal Luo Zhaohong, who has been serving the school for over a decade. In 2013, Caixin Online did a piece about the school and recorded a great video interview that really captures the principal’s servant spirit and the impact this school has made over the years.
According to Principal Luo, the school operates on a budget of about 2.5 Million RMB (roughly $400,000), which comes mostly through private donations.
The school is located wayyyy outside the 6th Ring road in Beijing. Quite a trek for those of us used to staying in the confines of the CBD or Sanlitun area. (Even though it can be rough sometimes, my advice is to get out of the central part of the city at least once a month anyways to remind yourself there is scenery in life other than pollution, bars, hotels and skyscrapers! Did you know there are mountains surrounding Beijing? :)).
When I met Principal Luo and her staff, I was immediately greeted with a spirit of warmth and gratitude. They were very gracious that I would have done something as simple as even paying a brief visit to the school! The principal walked me around the grounds for a tour, and spent a great deal of time showing me the pictures they’ve displayed of volunteers, both Chinese and foreign, that have given their time at the school over the years.
I learned that the school has served tens of thousands of women from across China, representing pretty much all of the ethnic minority groups that have clans in China. Normally, the women will come for 3 months at a time to receive training in different fields like school teaching, medicine, or leadership. The key objective is to help the women become more creative and resourceful, to be able to grow and impact their home communities.
I had the privilege of engaging some of the girls in the current cohort. These girls are all between the ages of 16 – 20 and come from poor, rural communities like Guizhou in southern China, and have come to receive training to be Kindergarten teachers back home.
I really learned a lot and built a connection, and felt strongly compelled to make this school the cause our club would contribute to for the MSU Global Service Day.
Service Activity: Secondhand Item and Monetary Donation Drive at Home Plate Sanlitun
To make a more lasting impact and to provide the school with resources it needs, we decided to extend the service project beyond the April 18th day to give people the opportunity to donate. This gives MSU and non-MSU alums in Beijing the chance to make an impact! Graciously, Home Plate Restaurant in Sanlitun, which also hosted many of the Spartan NCAA tournament game watches, volunteered to act as a depot for item drop off and cash donations.
The drive began only a few weeks ago, and already we’ve gathered many items that will be useful for the school – printers, paper, pencils, crayons, and even kitchen appliances. The biggest items they need are a new fax machine and laptop computers to enhance their training activities.
The Drive has started to pick up momentum, and has been featured in The Beijinger magazine.
Join Us on April 18
The Donation Drive is going on from now until April 17th at Home Plate. On April 18th, we are gathering a group of volunteers to drive out to the school to deliver the monetary and secondhand item donations. As part of our visit, we will engage the students and staff in an arts and crafts and recreational activity to be announced.
Please DM me @Danredford or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join us. This activity is open to Spartans and non-Spartans alike!
#Spartanswill #GoGreen #MSUGlobalService