With "goodbyes" comes "welcome" to another new place, new adventure, and new experiences of His leadings. From one rural area we moved to another, except this time it is 1000m lower in elevation and 1000km more south, right at the border of Vietnam. This county town is nestled between rice terraces and high mountains. The area is 98% ethnic people group, mostly Hani. We will be learning the Hani language with a local tutor. Hani is the primary language of communication in this area, so this will be the first time during our 8 years of living on the field we need to do language studies.
First thing is to find a place. Fortunately, a family recently moved away and we were able to inherit their rental house (or mansion by our previous standard). It has 2 floors plus a roof terrace, 8 bedrooms and a lot of cleaning! We have never lived in such large place in our life (300+ sq meters indoor)! After living for the past half year without indoor toilet or shower, we feel like this place is 5 star. It's amazing how it took only 5 months in the village to change one's perspective of living standard. The landlord has been renting out his place for a low price because the villagers believe his place is haunted. Our entire family has been cleaning as a team, nonstop for the last 2 weeks, sweeping away the cobwebs and dust, taking turns cooking. We pray for a suitable helper for our new home.
We like the rural life style. The entire county town is up and running by 7:30am, so we now sleep very early to be able to fit in the flow of life in The county. The choir of roosters is crowing away around 5:30am! The flocks of geese honk away after 7:30am..so it is very hard to sleep in!
Our new rented apartment is a two-minute walk from the local Chinese school! Classes start at 7:10am, so the kids are up by 6:30am, have breakfast and walk to school together. Nathan is attending 2nd grade full time, and Joani is auditing 1st grade. We give thanks for the kindness the classmates and teachers are showing to our kids. Nathan is excited to attend the after school drawing class, and Joani is excited to join the dance program with her classmates. Jonathan's office is a 10-minute walk from home. During his one and half hour lunch break, he can come home to help Olivia with her math and supervise Nathan and Joani with their Chinese school work.
In this county, Jonathan will be leading a team of about 15 staff in managing a development project covering three townships with seven administrative villages and about 40+ natural villages working with about a population of 20,000 villagers.
The project is focused on the well-being of children and their families in remote, improvished area of China.
The strategy is integrated, which means that the problem of poverty is tackled from all angles, mainly education, health, and livelihood. The approach is participatory, which means that instead of telling the villagers what is good for them, we try to listen to their perspective and have them take ownership to solve their own problems. The focused in on the children, which means that even though much of the work is on improving the family, the villages, and schools, the ultimate benefit is to improve the living environment for the children.
There are many elements to the project in the different areas: Education - building safe and well-lit classrooms and dormitories, providing sports equipments and reading books, giving financial aids, holding extracurricular activities to increase their interest in learning. Health - physical checkup for children and women, changing health behaviors, providing clean drinking water, building sanitary walk paths, bathroom & showers, improving nutrition, giving emergency medical assistance. Livelihood - improving yields of crops, training on scientific crop growing and animal husbandry, introducing new varieties of cash crops, improving access to market and information, providing small loans, training on micro-enterprises concepts.
It's a challenging task as the roads are often impassable and ultimately everything are done through people, whether it be the local government, staff, and villagers. Changing and working with people is always difficult. However, I am trusting that God will carry everything to completion in his own time. I just need to be faithful and patient.