(Story by Patrick Scally originally published in GoKunming)
Today GoKunming traveled to a northern Kunming school with 15 volunteers. We spent the day giving art lessons to 400 elementary and middle school students while doctors and their assistants administered heart examinations.
Dexin Jiaoyu (德馨教育) provides free schooling for children of migrant parents who do not have official Kunming residential registration, or hukou
(户口). Families without proper registration often have difficulties finding housing, healthcare or access to education once they move from their villages to the city.
Li Zhixiang (李志祥), a former Chinese national Sanda
(散打) champion, founded Dexin Jiaoyu with children from families like these in mind.
The school runs on donations from individuals, clubs and corporations. Some of the food for lunches is grown on site while the rest is given to the school by local charity organizations. Many students also return home between classes for meals.
The school has a computer lab with 20 new computers donated by the Kunming Chess Association and Standard Chartered Bank
. Li believes Dexin Jiaoyu is the only wholly donation-based school in Yunnan.
The training, equipment and volunteers for the heart exams were provided by China California Heart Watch
(China Cal), a non-governmental organization (NGO) specializing in diagnosing and treating heart ailments in Yunnan.
China Cal was established by Dr Robert Detrano
after a 2005 trip to Yunnan. The NGO has examined thousands of children around the province and identified 120 with life-threatening heart defects. These children have all been provided with free corrective surgeries.
Once a child with a heart defect is identified, China Cal doctors schedule more tests and then find funding for those children who need surgery. No children at Dexin Jiaoyu were found to have any serious heart issues.
Unlike most Western countries, where heart examinations are conducted shortly after birth, rural Chinese newborns often receive no cardiac screenings. Congenital defects can sometimes lead to cardiac arrest, even in young children.
The day's screenings and art projects were organized by Village Progress
and China Cal. The two NGOs plan a larger joint effort of the same kind in Lincang in October of this year.
Dexin Jiaoyu accepts donations including money, food, clothing and school supplies. School administrators can be contacted by calling 13888249643 or contacting them at 842377506 [at] qq [dot] com. Donations to Village Progress can be made via their website or in person at A Ling Crafts
: Yereth Jansen
Zhenglong Gasifying Stove
On a recent trip to Bangdong, we brought five gasifying stoves to be tested alongside the Rocket Stove that we brought over in May. This time, the cost of the stoves was paid for from generous donors. One stove went to testing at a restaurant in Bangdong Town at a restaurant run by the parents of one of Salvador's employees while the other stoves will be tested with village families. The gasifying stoves take a little getting used to, but once the water-filled gasifying cartridges begin fueling the fire, the heat generated is far higher than that of the rocket stove.
The advantages of the gasifying stoves include a high temperature flame with little to no smoke and the ability to incinerate other materials like dried corn cobs and walnut shells. The disadvantages include the time needed to ignite the gasifying cartridge and the fact that the fuel must be chopped into much shorter lengths than most families are used to. The advantages of the Rocket Stove include an efficient flame with only 30% as much wood used in traditional fire pits and a side entrance for fuel that allows for longer cuts of wood. The disadvantage is that when more food preparation is needed, like when they have guests, the rocket stove is a little too slow. The villagers said that they think the hot flame of the gasifying stove would make for better tasting food.
Both need more testing, especially by the villagers themselves, but my initial feeling is that a hybrid of both stoves might be best. If the Rocket stove was scaled up in size and had a slot for a gasifying cartridge but kept the side entrance for adding wood, perhaps the disadvantages of both stoves could be eliminated.
On a recent visit to Bangdong, I met up with the chair of the Lincang Bangdong Cloudland Coffee Cooperative. Zhuhong is a young man who left Bangdong at the age of 14, and after an assortment of jobs throughout Yunnan, eventually moved to Beijing and started up his own business making hand drums. His drums are widely recognized as some of the best around and are even featured in Yang Liping's nationally-respected dance performances. Zhuhong has now returned to Bangdong to start up a coffee venture in hopes of bringing economic fortune to his village.
With a cooperative board led by twelve Bangdong families, Zhuhong has organized his entire village into a new company with the goal of producing Yunnan's finest coffee beans. Moreover, he aims to be the first in Yunnan to provide certified organic coffee beans grown, roasted and packaged all at the village level.
On this trip to Bangdong, I was accompanied by an Indian man and an American woman who came with the goal of helping Zhuhong start his own organic fertilization production. As fertilizer accounts for a large portion of the costs of coffee farming, even more so if one commits to growing organically, composting locally is extremely important.
Zhuhong now has over 300 mu planted and hopes to plant another 700 mu early next year. Right now he remains focused on organic certification, licensing and fertilizer production. If all goes well, we'll see his coffee on the market by 2014. His commitment and ever increasing professionalism serve him well as he moves forward with a project that holds great economic potential for the entire village.
Story originally published on GoKunming.Over the past six years, we've done motorcycle trips across western Sichuan, in Xinjiang's Altai Mountains, to the Dulong River Valley, around the Cangshan Mountain Range and throughout Yunnan; but this ride was different—and not just because of the government entourage.
Our bikes arrived in Yunxian, a quiet city at the junction of the Beiqiao and Nanqiao rivers in northern Lincang Prefecture. It was our fifth trip to Lincang in the past year as we continue to explore opportunities for our non-profit, Village Progress, to develop programs in the area.
Of our 19 employees at Salvador's Coffee House, 18 come from Lincang. Our goal in establishing Village Progress was to work directly with the families of our employees to address issues that they see as problematic in their villages.
Low income, rising health care costs and a marginally adequate education system are common issues in China's countryside as more emphasis has been placed on developing cities. In Lincang, a region that is very dependent upon a fluctuating tea market, these issues are very apparent.
A media crew joined us in Yunxian along with two Kunming artists and a professional survivalist—a student of Tom Brown Jr. A two-hour ride to the Lancang River Valley brought us to Bangdong Village, home of Pingdi, one of our managers. There we met with her family to test out a super-efficient wood-burning stove donated to us by Stovetec.
An environmentally friendlier stove, courtesy of StovetecIn Yunnan's countryside, most cooking is done on wood-fired hearths that are usually located indoors with little ventilation. The smoke that this produces is recognized as a cause of many common medical ailments among villagers.
Stovetec's stoves require only half as much wood as typical cooking hearths and produce only about one-third of the emissions. Pingdi's mother immediately put the stove to work, later telling us that it cooked well and was easy to use.
Students at Bangdong Primary SchoolA 45-minute hike up from the village brought us to Bangdong's elementary school. Over 100 children between the ages of seven and 14 excitedly welcomed us. The Kunming artists split up into two different classrooms and guided the children on some simple art projects. Another classroom was filled with wide-eyed students when the survivalist demonstrated his fire-making skills and discussed the importance of clean water and protecting the natural environment.
The school was very receptive to future project ideas and we are now working with the principal to build a library and learning center with used books collected from Kunming students.
The following day we rode another two hours to the city of Lincang where government officials from the health department awaited us. We had met with them a month earlier to seek their involvement in a project to teach over 500 village doctors about high blood pressure diagnosis and treatment.
China California Heart Watch is an organization founded by Dr Robert Detrano that holds cardiology clinics throughout Yunnan's countryside for village doctors. Village doctors, much like thebarefoot doctors of Mao's era, receive only minimal training but serve as the first line of defense against illness and injury in their villages.
Village doctors receiving training in high blood pressure diagnosis and treatmentDr Detrano offered to hold two-day clinics in Lincang City, Yunxian and Cangyuan if we could get financial support from the Lincang government. Upon hearing the idea, Lincang's financial and health departments offered to cover all of the costs in addition to organizing transportation, room and board for all the village doctors. Dr Detrano called upon six medical instructors from Singapore, northeast China and Yunnan who volunteered their time to teach the courses.
We were skeptical that the turnout would be as high as the health department predicted, but when we showed up for the first day's lecture, all the seats were filled and many had to stand for the opening lessons. The clinics were taught with a combination of lectures, participatory group exercises and role-playing assignments.
The training focuses on treatment steps for high blood pressure and equipping village doctors with techniques for working with patients who are reluctant to cut back on salt, oil, cigarettes and alcohol. As non-medically trained foreigners, our job was to entertain with games like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes when lectures had students nodding off.
For six days, we rode our motorcycles, often getting pounded by driving rain, to the clinics in Yunxian and Cangyuan. From there we followed small roads up along the Burma border, everything still soaking wet from riding through storms, and arrived at the small town of Mankaba.
The city of CangyuanAfter unpacking our bikes, we shot pool with some local kids who proudly blasted Eminem and Green Day from their mobile phones. In soggy shoes and mildewed jeans, we toasted to the end of our ride with a couple bottles of warm Lancang Jiang beer. An orange sunset reached across the sky and the clouds looked particularly nice over Burma.
Photos and Video: Kris Ariel