Introducing Angel Covers’ new education program in Sichuan, China

June 28, 2014

Today we flew into the Kangding airport, which at just over 14,000 feet is the third highest airport in the world. The lush green mophoto 57untains greeted us as we drove from the airport to Xinduqiao to meet our students attending the Kangding Middle School. It’s easy to see why the area around Xinduqiao is known as a “photographer’s paradise” because the landscape is filled with snow-capped mountains dotted with grazing yaks and traditional Tibetan-style homes. Xinduqiao is a small town, where the yaks, horses, pigs, and dogs roam freely in the streets and children greet strangers with shrieks of laughter and joy – particularly when that stranger also happens to be a foreigner with a camera. While this area has stunning natural beauty, it is also remote and quite poor. Children come from far away to attend the boarding school. Most of their families are farmers or nomadic herdsmen. We spent a few minutes in the town shopping for school supplies to add to the book bags that we had brought for them, then went to the hotel and assembled all of the gifts.

We took the students to lunch at our hotel, and got to know them as we feasted on some of the best food I’ve had in a long time (whphoto 56y is the food in China always so much better than the food at home?). They were a bit shy at first, but not as shy as most students when I meet them  for the first time. Their physics teacher works for Angel Covers, mentoring them throughout the year and providing reports for us on their progress in school. I think they enjoyed sharing a meal with him, and he made them feel more comfortable around us. Purple crushed velvet seems to be a recurring theme on this trip, and the dining room chairs were covered in it. Large, open windows allowed us to see that we were surrounded on all sides by the nearby mountains.

After lunch we went outside and had fun singing and dancing for a few hours. We played a game of musical chairs, and the person who didn’t reach a chair on time was the person chosen to sing. Each student and teacher sang a traditional song, and afterwards we all joined in to learn a couple of Tibetan dances together. We were all having so much fun that we didn’t mind when the sunny blue skies began to turn gray and thunder rumbled in the distance. They seemed so happy to receive their new book photo 32bags, and even happier when they opened them to find notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, colored pencils, and candy inside. One of their most cherished items was a card for each student that had been hand-made by a group of caring high school students from California. They poured over the letters, sounding out each word and practicing their English reading skills. A special bonus was the photo of the student who wrote the card attached to each one. We took the girls’ photos (over 600, plus some video clips) and then drove them back to school. What a treat – to be served a lunch with as much food as they could eat, a celebration of singing and dancing, gifts of book bags and hand-made cards and photos, and, to top it off, a ride back to school! For these girls who have had so little and such a hard life (most are orphans; a few come from nomadic families), this day meant the world to them.

The school is average size for a high school in this area; about 1000 students attend. Most children stay here during the school year and only go home for summer and winter breaks. It is an older school and is definitely showing its age, but fortunately it is under construction now and within a year they will have new classrooms, and the current classrooms will be converted into dormitories. The dormitories that the students live in now are in really bad shape, so they are all looking forward to better accommodations and the sooner the better. The classrooms are sparsely furnished with basic desks and chairs, and two chalkboards (remember those?). There is no heat at the school, and I photo 58can only imagine how cold it must get during the winter months at this altitude (11,000 feet). However, just outside the classroom windows is the most beautiful view of the mountains. I would be a very poor student at this school, because I would spend all of my time staring out the windows and daydreaming about hiking to the summit of one of those peaks.

After saying goodbye to the students, we then met with the teachers to find out how the program is doing, what the current needs are, determine how many new students should be added to the program this year, and where we see the program going from here. I am so pleased with this new education program, and I’m looking forward to watching it grow. Final exams are next week, and everyone will begin their summer vacation in just a few days. Our students are now ready to be matched with sponsors, so if you’re interested in helping a bright young lady attend high school, let us know!


Angela  photo 40photo 51