NEEDS IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL
After being involved in the Middle School for a month or two, it became clear that there are some urgent needs that would make a big impact in students living conditions. One is the lack of dinning facilities and cabinet for the students. The other is the lack of hot water and shower facility.
LACK OF DINING FACILITY AND CABINET
Currently, given there is no dining tables & benches, the students had no choice but to squat on the ground outside in the field to eat. Given the students live in the school, for 3 meals a day, that is how they eat, causing sanitary problems, possible health issues from the cold weather, and garbage outside on the school ground.
In addition, in their dorm, although more than 10-14 students live in a room with bunk beds, there is no cabinet to put any items, including their eating utensils, toiletries, personal items, and clothings. All these are put on their bed, under the blankets/bed pad, or on top of a small desk, also causing health sanitary issues, uncomfortable sleeping, and cluttered room.
LACK OF HOT SHOWER AND HOT WATER FOR WASHING
The village we stay in is around 2600m (8528 feet) and during winter the temperature at night and the evening is below 0 Celsius. During daytime, it is about 10 Celsius. Due to lack of shower facilities and also cultural habit, students wash their body only about once every 1-2 month. Although they do wash their face & feet regularly, as there is no facilities for students to obtain warm water, they have to do so using freezing water which affects their health. In addition, the middle school girls' bodies are at the age when their body is changing, which makes washing regularly or washing with warm water for the more than 125 girls here even more critical for sanitary and good health.
For the above needs, we contacted some of our friends back home. Many people generously responded with contribution for the needs. One former coworker sponsored the dining facility and cabinet need. Around 33 table and bench sets were built for the close to 300 students and teachers. Another 24 cabinets were made, one for each dorm room, to put their toiletries and personal items.
For the need for hot shower and hot water, Several friends and friends of friends put together enough money for this project. Due to the high altitude and abundance of sunlight, solar heating shower is the best option. It is also environmentally friendly and does not require electricity cost which would be difficult for the school to afford. In addition, for sustainability and prevention of over-dependence, the plan is for student to pay a nominal fee of RMB0.50 for each use of the shower (hot water during morning/night would be free). The resulting income would be used for any necessary repairs in the future and as a fund for the student to pay for school/dorm supplies, extra-curricular activities, or urgent needs common to all. The fund will be under the management of the student body council, giving them a voice and training them in their leadership and financial skill.
4 shower stalls were built 2 years ago but couldn't be used due to lack of funding for solar heating. The plan is to use these existing shower stalls, plus to remodel the bathroom next door to increase the number of stalls by another 8 for a total of 12 stalls. Then to buy and install solar water heating panels and storage that would supply enough hot water allowing about half of the students to take shower once a week.
SPECIAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS
Just before Christmas, these projects were completed. On the 24th, the day before Christmas, the Rural Association, a local NGO who managed these two projects, came to the Middle School for an official ceremony, bring with them also the 33 sets of tables and benches, a toiletry set for each student, and two thermal bottles and 5 wash basin for each dorm room.
During the ceremony, appreciation was expressed by the student body representative. We also expressed appreciation for the donors and to remind the students the significance of receiving these Christmas gifts from afar on Christmas. It is a time to give thanks and to pass on the blessing, just as the donors passed on their blessings to the students.
It was a joy to see them eating on tables and benches inside the cafeteria, as oppose to outside on the floor or in the dorm room. Many students also rushed into the shower room to take a shower for the first time perhaps in their life, as there are no shower in the village where they live.
That's a special Christmas for all of us.