First volunteer teaching camp at Kuangou Elementary School in Gansu

Kuangou Elementary School is located in one of the poorest villages in Gansu, one of China’s least developed provinces.  It was set up in 1777 and slated for closure by 2014.

Kuangou was once a bustling commercial town along the Silk Road, but living and ecological conditions had worsened, and many have moved away.  Only young children and the elderly are left in the village.  Most of the children are looked after by grandparents and relatives because their parents are migrants working in more prosperous areas of the country.  Some children never knew or seldom saw their parents, and a few of them are orphans.

The villagers grow subsistence crops and keep livestock for basic survival.  They have been relying on the ancient wells for centuries, and underground water resources still have not been deployed to enhance the quality of their life.

In addition to the harsh natural landscape and the lack of natural resources, especially water, educational resources are also in severely short supply.  Only language and mathematics classes are offered; students do not have any extracurricular lessons in music, arts and physical education.

To enrich the educational experience of the destitute children, Thin & High organized a summer camp for them in August 2012.  The volunteer teachers were undergraduates from universities from all across China.

The 2-week program provided an eye-opening and joyful experience for the children.  It included lessons in classical texts, music, arts, crafts and calligraphy.  They played team sports, studied martial arts, learned to fly kites, tie knots and climb; they also enjoyed storytelling and their first campfire.  In addition, the volunteer teachers visited the homes of some students to better understand the children’s situations.  At the end of the 2 weeks, the children saw the volunteer teachers as their friends and even confidantes, who had given them hopes and dreams of a better life.

Click here to view a slide show of the summer camp (if you use Internet Explorer and it opens the file as individual slides, please press F5 to start the audible presentation).  Click here to read Li DeMing’s blog from August 6 to September 12, 2012, which provided a detailed account of the project, including the volunteers’ reports.

Fortunately, the school has managed to avoid closure in 2014 not only through the efforts of Thin & High in organizing summer camps, but also through Thin & High’s continuous donations, visits to the village, medical assistance for critically ill children, as well as interactions with local officials.  Click here for Thin & High’s second volunteer teaching summer camp there in 2014.