Jia-le Elementary School in Guizhou (fund raising by Tom and Jia-le's friend)

Target: $1,000
Place: Jia-le Elementary School, Zhijin County, Guizhou Province, China
Project Details: Teacher aid, Classroom painting, Sports equipment including table tennis table and basketball frame, etc.
Budget: ¥6,000

Jia-le Elementary School is located in a remote Miao ethnic village of central Guizhou province in Southwestern China. Steep mountains and terraced farmlands dominate the landscape, isolating the poor rural village from the outside world.  The village children used to hike 2~3 miles of treacherous steep hills to the nearest elementary school, a daily journey often made more dangerous by storms.  Most children did not finish middle school and dropout rates remained very high, until 2003 when two brothers from the Yang family decided to build Jia-Le Elementary School for their village.

To save money, the brothers and the villagers built the simplest school structure from soil, with dirt walls further separating the building into 3 classrooms. When Jia Le Elementary School first opened in this humble shack, 29 students took classes sitting on stools they brought from home and their make-shift “desks” were wood boards (borrowed from the villagers) set on top of a few bricks. 

The last decade saw many ups and downs of the student and teacher population which surged from the original 29 up to 160 enrolled students and 4 teachers in 2006. With very limited government funding for the temporary teachers, they eventually had to quit teaching for other paying work. As a result, in 2009 the school enrollment quickly dwindled to around 40 students, all under the solo care of Principle Yang who also served as the only teacher.  When I first visited Jia-Le in April 2010, the school in its desperation ended up hiring an elementary school graduate to teach!

In the summer of 2010, Ms Jiang, the daughter of one of the Yang brothers, graduated from college and returned to her village to commit to teaching at her uncles’s Jia-Le school. Ms Jiang’s return attracted many cheering children back to the classroom. Perseverance of the Yang brothers and Ms Jiang has paid off.  With OCEF’s strong support, the school added a second floor, rebuilt a rest room, and developed comprehensive syllabuses of coursework, including a course teaching Miao traditional batik (wax painting/fabric dying). OCEF has been providing continuous funding for a variety of projects, including teachers’ financial aids, library improvement, a multimedia room with computers and a projector and school facilities enhancement. The school enrollment has steadily increased to the current 77 students and is expected to reach 85 students when September 2013 school year starts.

I visited Jia-Le for the second time in May 2013, as the school celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Under the loving care of volunteer support and continuous donor funding, Jia-Le has graduated many classes of elementary students in the last decade. Some of the earliest Jia-Le children will be starting college this year.

Two brothers’ decade of dedication for one dream touched the hearts and souls of thousands of people. I like to compare remote depressed schools to dry wells and children to struggling frogs at the bottom of the wells. Looking high up to the sky, they can only see the outside world the size of the well opening.  As we raise resources, we are fetching buckets of “spring water” for the teachers to pump into the well. With the rising “spring water”, the “struggling frogs” can climb up above the well to a much broader sky and the world, a world their parents have never seen, and a world that belongs to them.  Through education, the fountain of knowledge, we can give these kids new hope and opportunities.

All teachers at Jia-Le are temporary teachers and the school currently does not have any government sponsored teachers and has very limited fund from the government.  OCEF will therefore continue to provide funding for teachers’ financial aid.  The funds we raise here will be used for painting the school inside and outside walls, building a simple basketball rack or a cement ping-pong table.

In front of Jia-Le Elementary School, 2006


OCEF funded second floor under construction, Jia-Le Elementary School, 2011.

Classroom at Jia-Le Elementary School, May 2013.

Visiting Jia-Le teacher Mr. Li’s home with Jia-Le’s Principle Yang, May 2013.

With her 6 month old baby on her back, Ms Jiang (Center) teaches at Jia-Le every day.
In October 2012, we donated winter jackets and rain boots to every student.