Occupation: Founder of Educating Girls of Rural China
Home: Vancouver, Canada
Member since: May 2015
Why did you found Educating Girls of Rural China?
During the Cultural Revolution, I went with my mom to rural Gansu province. I stayed there for eight years instead of going to school. I felt there was no hope for me in the future, so I was thinking of a way to leave China. I ended up in Canada.
My two children were born and grew up there and had all the opportunities. Once, my daughter was singing for a Unicef project, which suddenly reminded me of my life in Gansu. I went back to check out the needs, and from thereafter I was determined to do something. I registered a nonprofit in Canada, and have been going to Gansu every summer.
What's your biggest accomplishment so far?
After 10 years, every single student we sponsored graduated. This is not random because from the beginning I realized they need more than just money. We pay great attention to the first year uni students. After they leave home, the big challenge for them is that they have never been to a city. They have to learn how to take elevators, buses, how to use the toilet.
I also see them facing another big challenge when they start working. More and more I realize I want to see them succeed in their careers.
What do sponsorships go toward?
It is common for some of the high school students to only eat one meal per day. For the high school sponsorship program, we give them their tuition, accommodation, books and each month we give them RMB 300 for food.
We visited one family that lived far away from the school. The mom would bake those dry, thick pancakes every week and give it to the long distance bus driver. The daughter then goes to the bus station to pick up a few of those every week, her only food.
For university students, it's much better. We give them between RMB 5,000 and 6,000. They have the liberty to use it either for tuition, accommodation or living expenses.
What's your favorite movie?
Out of Africa. I've watched the movie five times, but the book is even better.
Africa. I have found travel is a great way to learn; it changes you. Africa is so ancient, so profound.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I love dance, like tango. Tango is very complex. It's not about showing it to other people, it's really about connecting with your partner.