Girl's stories

Read some personal stories of how EGRC has positively impacted the lives of girls in China, and how these young women are giving back to their communities and to EGRC.

Yan Xiao headshot

Yan Xiao

Looking back, the biggest change I have experienced is the awakening of my self awareness. I am no longer the girl I used to be I have become more confident and willing to help others.

I was accepted to the EGRC Future Leader program in 2018. Now, I am in third year of my university studies. Looking back, the biggest change I have experienced is the awakening of my self-awareness. I am no longer the girl I used to be, I have become more confident and willing to help others.

Over the past two years, the dedication of helping us grow from the EGRC team and Auntie Tien have made a great impression on me. They have not only provided us with financial support, they have also provided English and leadership training through different channels and opportunities. Most of all, I have appreciated the loving care and encouragement. Recently, our group just completed six sessions of one-on-one coaching. The purpose was to help us planning the graduation. Now, I feel prepared for the next stage of my life.

Since joining EGRC, I have always felt I am on the receiving end. I was thinking about what I could do for EGRC in return. I have been a member of Toastmasters Club Lanzhou for some time, and through my participation in the club, I was able to improve my public speaking skills. I have gained a lot of self-confidence through public speaking and know a lot of our EGRC girls would benefit from this as well.

In October 2020, Tian Jing, another fellow EGRC girl, and I created our own Toastmasters Club within EGRC. Even though It was a lot of work, the whole process has given me the opportunity to exercise my leadership skills. It is so rewarding to receive positive feedback from Auntie Tien and my fellow EGRC girls. Just like Rome wasn’t built in one day, I believe our Toastmasters Club will get better and better with the joint efforts of our EGRC sisters.

Wang Bixia headshot

Bixia Wang

Bixia once said that without EGRC, she could not even dream about going abroad. She also said, “It was my proudest moment when I brought my parents from our village in Gansu to visit me in Chicago and Vancouver.”

In 2011, Wang Bixia graduated from Shanxxi Normal University, and became the first EGRC girl to study abroad. She was accepted into the master’s program at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada to study Chemistry. This is proof that once girls are given the opportunity, they can dream bigger and go further and beyond.

Marsha Lederman from The Global and Mail interviewed Bixia in 2011. The full article is available at the link below.

Don Kayne, CEO of Canfor Corporation, has become a donor and supporter ever since he read that article in 2011.

Huo Wenjuan headshot

Huo Wenjuan

Since 2016, I have been working at the Bureau of Economic Reform and Development of Helan County in Ningxia Province. In 2019, I was promoted to the Deputy Director. This role has allowed me to be involved in projects relating to poverty elevation which I witnessed again, the hardship women and girls experienced in the countryside.

I am from Longxi County, Gansu Province. I was the second of four girls to be born in my family. After my youngest sister was born, my father left home, leaving my mother with the burden of raising four of us on her own. It was very hard on both my mother and us. From a young age, my sisters and I did what we could to help my mother. I was determined to have a good education and provide my mother a better life in the future. In the summers of my high school years, I worked every day at a brick factory. In 2008, eight hours of back breaking hard work earned me 15 Yuan (2 CAD) per day – the equivalent price of a school lunch.

In the summer of 2009, I was accepted by Ningxia University, but the cost of attending was impossible for my mother to afford. My other sisters were also in school at that time. In that critical time, Aunt Tien and EGRC came to my life. I received sponsorship. During the four years of my university studies, I met Aunt Tien and other fellow EGRC sisters every summer, and these were the happiest times in my memory. We got to know Aunt Tien and her incredible story and I got to know other EGRC sisters. Since I met EGRC I never felt alone on my journey to achieve my dream. I had a whole community beside me and support me. EGRC is my second family.

In 2013, I graduated with top honors and qualified for a graduate program. Three years later, I earned a Master’s degree in economics.

Since 2016, I have been working at the Bureau of Economic Reform and Development of Helan County in Ningxia Province. In 2019, I was promoted to the Deputy Director. This role has allowed me to be involved in projects relating to poverty elevation which I witnessed again, the hardship women and girls experienced in the countryside. This made me think how important EGRC’s work is.

In 2017, I made my first donation back to EGRC and have been doing so on an annual basis, because I simply want to see more girls receive the gift of education.

Haixia Zhang headshot

Haixia Zhang

I was born in the countryside of Gansu to an ordinary rural family. My family income was dependent on my father going to urban centers to work, and from my mother farming at home, our life was relatively stable.

When I was in high school, my mother had a serious car accident, and she fell into a coma. She was hospitalized for over two months, and she had lost one quarter of her skull. Not only my mother lost the ability to work, but also my father had to stay home and look after her, not even mention the expensive medical bills. Our family was crashed.

The same year I was accepted to university and I met EGRC. At the time I had no idea that how this one meeting would impact my life. Even today, I clearly remember my first meeting with Auntie Tien. She looked so kind, and she calmed my nerves the first time I spoke Mandarin Chinese and told her the story of my condition. What left the deepest impression on me was how Auntie Tien inquired in detail about my mother’s condition. Once she discovered that my mother was missing a piece of her skull, she immediately suggested providing additional financial aid to help my mother get the surgery she needed. In that first encounter, I met someone who cared so much, I felt like I had met an angel. The affection I have for her will stay with me for the rest of my life.

For my four years of university study, EGRC’s support not only alleviated financial pressure on my family, I also received so much emotional support. I never could have imagined that even after my graduation Auntie Tien would continue offer me support. After I came to Shanghai, I would have the chance to see Auntie Tien one or two times a year, the more I got to know her, the more I came to understand and value her work and her greatness.

I began to actively participate in supporting EGRC’s work. In 2014 and 2015 I accompanied Auntie Tien to Guizhou to select new students, and to organize an annual meeting for EGRC girls. These experiences made me deeply comprehend the importance of EGRC’s existence.

I have also gained so much from being a longtime volunteer for ERGC. Because of EGRC, I had my first experience of speaking before an audience of 200 people, and I had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver. Because of EGRC’s support to alumni, I have had the opportunity to learn English with foreign teachers, and I have had the opportunity to participate in women’s leadership training. All of these experiences were opportunities I never would have had access to in my daily life and work. These special opportunities have allowed me to expand my knowledge, increase my self confidence, and envision higher hopes for my future. People ask me why I do so much work for EGRC it’s because of Auntie Tien; she is not only my role model, more importantly, she is my life mentor.

Since graduation, although I have been far away from my home town, working hard and living in a large city for nearly 10 years, I don’t feel alone. EGRC is a light illuminating my life. As we celebrate EGRC’s 15th Anniversary, I am filled with gratitude, thanks and blessings!

Liang Qingyun headshot

Liang Qingyun

The year when I turned 15, my mother passed away. On her deathbed, she told me her final wish was to see me receiving an education. Until today, I still remember it vividly…

I was born with impaired vision due to genetic inheritance of eye disease from my mother. At school, I had to sit in the front row in order to barely see what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. When I was 5 years old, my mother gave birth to my little brother. My brother gravitated everyone’s attention and affection simply because he is a boy. However, my mother didn’t change and she always paid attention to me. It was devastating when she passed away.

Back in 2013, I passed the high school entrance exam when Auntie Tien visited me for the first time. It was a rainy day and it was difficult for Auntie Tien to walk through the muddy road. By the time she arrived, her shoes were soaked with mud. I was excited but also worried to see her arrive under such bad weather condition. Until I saw her smiley face while exchanging conversations with my grandparents, I felt relieved from all the anxiety.

I couldn’t sleep for a few days after I learned that EGRC would support my high school education. It was simply unbelievable. Auntie Tien visited us once or twice every year in the following three years. During her visits, she was busy and needed to speak with the teachers and a lot of students. But she paid attention to me every time and asked about my school work, life and family. As time went by, I became less shy about sharing my ideas with her.

I graduated in 2016. And I always remember what she shared with me, “Life is full of possibilities. It’s not the end of world if you don’t attend university. There are other paths for you to pursue in life. Our connection will continue.”

I failed to pass the university exam. While I was taking care of my grandma in the hospital, I received a call from EGRC’s Program Manager Meifen. She asked if I wanted to move to Shanghai to learn bakery. I knew it was a great opportunity offered by Auntie Tien. However, I decided not going because of my poor vision and my family obligations. I started taking training course to become a massage therapist. I have been working as a massage therapist over the past four years.

I never lose hope and faith in life and Auntie Tien has been with me on this journey. During the summer of 2019, Auntie Tien learned that I was preparing for entrance exam to a professional college in North-East China, she called and asked if I need financial support. Moreover, she also arranged an EGRC alumna to accompany me to attend the exam. I am forever grateful for her unwavering support. Even though I didn’t pass the exam, I am still hopeful for my future. Words fail to express my gratitude towards Auntie Tien and EGRC.

GuoJuan Ren headshot

GuoJuan Ren

Getting the sponsorship from EGRC has changed my life. EGRC has sponsored my entire high school and university education.

My name is GuoJuan Ren, I am from a big mountain in Yuzhou, GanSu. Now I am in my 4th year at Liaoning University of Science and Technology majored in Finance. I grew up with my grandma, and she was my only companion in my childhood. She worked very hard to take care of me and send me to school. Life was tough and very simple for us.

Getting the sponsorship from EGRC has changed my life. EGRC has sponsored my entire high school and university education. I met Auntie Tien the first time in 2014. She looked like a ray of sunshine the moment I saw her. I was impressed about how kind and elegant she was. Auntie Tien visited me few more times in the next three years, I always felt so blessed each time I saw her, I could feel the deep love and care from her. I still remember clearly the day Auntie Tien brought the Canadian Ambassador John McCallum to my home. I was so impressed and surprised that I could hardly believe the reality. The Ambassador was very kind and asked about my life in details and kindly chatted with my grandmother too. My grandma and I took photos with the Ambassador.

Meeting EGRC, and later on meeting the Ambassador not only opened my eyes but also developed my deeper curiosity about the world. With Auntie Tien‘s encouragement, I decided to step onto a higher platform to see this world by attending university in Northeast China.

Another miracle happened later that year. I was invited to go to Beijing to meet the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau. Along with other EGRC girls and Auntie Tien we sat at a round table and chatted with the Prime Minister for a whole hour. In the first year of my university I started to learn to play rugby. After I achieved one nice score in a competition, I joined the school team and participated in a bigger competition in Guangzhou. Then followed by joining in many other competitions. Through playing rugby I have gained a lot of confidence.

Occasionally I have had bad days and encountered obstacles in life. The training and courses offered by EGRC have helped me, and encouraged me to get through it. Now I am facing graduation, and soon I will take on a career path. Because of EGRC I am able to get where I am today.

Girl wearing a backpack walking down a dirt road

Li Xiaxia

I felt EGRC warmed my heart after it had become so cold, and cured the drought inside of me like the rejuvenating rain and fresh breeze of spring.

Dear EGRC Donors,
Since a young age, my education cost has put a big financial burden to my family. I felt conflicted inside, as I didn’t know if I should continue my studies. For a poor family like mine, continuing my studies was like adding a layer of ice when we were already covered in snow. But if I didn’t go to school, what would I be able to do with my life? Would I regret the decision years later? My head was filled with these questions.

I still remember the day we were supposed to register for high school. That day, early in the morning I said to my father, “Dad, today I’m going to the county to register for high school, the teacher says the registration fee is about $1,500 yuan.” I clearly remember what my father said, “I don’t have the money now. You go ahead and register, and if they ask you for the payment, tell them you will owe them for now and pay the fees after classes begin.”

I choked up as soon as I heard my father’s words. My eyes were filled with tears and I quietly crept away. I’m a persistent person, and at the end of the day, I believe only I could decide my own fate. I rode my bicycle to the school. This was when I met EGRC and auntie Tien, and I received a warm welcome. After that, my father and I did not have to worry about the school fees and living expenses. Besides the financial support, they have comforted my spirit. I felt EGRC warmed my heart after it had become so cold, and cured the drought inside of me like the rejuvenating rain and fresh breeze of spring.

EGRC and auntie Tien, Thank you for all of your support. I feel like I have let you down by not being admitted to a top university, and I hope you will forgive me. From now on in my studies and life, I promise to devote my full effort, and bravely go forward. I feel I am like a bucket of water, every drop filled with gratitude. Thank you!

Tien Wenxia headshot

Tien Wenxia

My journey with EGRC started in 2008. It was a very challenging year for my family – I got into university, my younger and older brother were both in school and my dad was sick… My high school teacher introduced me to EGRC, and this is where it all began…

EGRC is not only a charity to me, but it is my second family. During college, it provided guidance on how to make the most of my education. Auntie Tien would come to visit us every summer. What I did not expect was – after college, EGRC continued offered support as I transition from a student to a social stakeholder. I personally have benefitted immensely from the lectures on mental health held by EGRC. After graduation every step I took with EGRC guided my way – career, marriage and motherhood. I even learned how to manage my personal finance from the classes EGRC offered.

I used to think that charitable work was only for the rich to do. But Auntie Tien showed me that anyone can do something for others. When I was a resident at the Hematology department, I helped my young patients and their parents to understand and learn how to deal with death, such that my young patients were able to face the last days of their lives. I felt good about this critical support which I could offer to others.

When COVID hit in the winter of 2020, I was overwhelmed with responsibility, working hard to help our patients day and night. To avoid passing on virus to my family, I had to send my eight month old baby boy to my home town and left him with my mother. In the next three months I did not take any time off and was not able to see him. Even though it was almost a year ago, recalling these days now still drives me to tears.

Chen Liqiong headshot

Chen Liqiong

A courtyard, two rooms, situated in the far north of muddy and mountainous North-Western China, that’s where I was born. In those early days, my mother would rise early and open the curtain, when the morning sunlight would shower into the room. It always brings a sense of nostalgic joy to my heart whenever this familiar scene comes into mind.

My mother never received any formal schooling. She and my father made sure that education was available for me and my two sisters. They worked day and night to provide us the opportunity they never had in order for us to see the outside world.

Back in 2012, I was accepted by the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics. Although my parents were overjoyed to hear this news, they also struggled to afford the tuition and living expenses for two kids attending universities. The help offered by Auntie Ching Tien was like the light piercing through the darkness that offered hope to my parents. Since 2012, EGRC's financial support has covered the living expenses during my four-year undergraduate study. However, what I had received from Auntie Tien and EGRC went beyond the financial support.

From a small and remote village, it was not easy to leave there but it was even more difficult to adapt to the urban life. I often found myself dreaming about the mountains during my first two years in Shanghai. I couldn’t really fit into the glamorous life in Shanghai. It was like the clash between day and night. And too often I found myself feeling lost and disoriented among the concrete jungle of urban buildings. Fortunately, the relationship and the guidance from Auntie Tien and EGRC played a crucial role in these difficult times. I loved reading books because it opened a small “window” for me. What I learned from Antie Tien and EGRC was like a bigger window that leads me to see more opportunities and hope. Until this day, I can’t believe how fortunate I was to receive the devoted help from Antie Tien and EGRC.

During my college time, Auntie Tien started the English Corner project that aims to improve our English speaking skills. Because I can speak fluent English, I was able to get the opportunity of working with an American boss.

Many EGRC girls are eager to give back to EGRC. Since I graduated in 2016, I had volunteered to help EGRC’s WeChat account and was the EGRC city leader for Shanghai. My current role is the President of EGRC Alumni Association. I am responsible for planning and organizing EGRC alumni online events and hosting regular group meetings. On many occasions I attended and spoke at EGRC fundraising events in Shanghai. I am grateful for these opportunities offered by EGRC. I got to know some women leaders and they have become my role models. All of which have leveled up my skills and vision of the world. Now I am confident to live and work in Shanghai where I believe a bright future is waiting for me.

Li Yong Xiu headshot

Li Yong Xiu

Li Yongxiu is a mother, and teaching music in an elementary school in Lanzhou.

“…[Ching] helped me pay for expensive music courses for 3 years in a row after my mother passed away…Kind people like her are very few in the world. In the future, I’d like to take care of her just like she is taking care of me now.”

In January 2007, CBC China correspondent Anthony Germaine traveled to Gansu and interviewed our EGRC girls. Listen to the story of Li Yong Xiu at the link below.

Girl wearing a backpack walking down a dirt road

Zhang Chen

Thank you EGRC for your care and support. This profound and powerful goodness will take root in my heart, and will blossom in every corner of my life.

I am Cheng Zhang, a Grade 10 student from Gansu.

Dear EGRC,
Thank you for your sponsorship. This sponsorship has released my mother's burden and made our life more stable. My parents divorced when I was very young, and I have not had any contacts with my father for years. Over the years, my mother brought me up with all kinds of hardships, and the word "father" has been very strange to me. My mother worked for an insurance company, and the money she earned was just enough for us to live by. But sometimes things weren’t meant to be. In 2017, the year of the high school admission exam, I suddenly fell ill. I spent nine days in ICU and four days in coma. The doctors tried their best to save my life, so that I could see the mountains and rivers of this world again.

At that time, what I did not realize was how much money my mother spent on my treatments. After I learned how deep we were in debt, I was really discouraged, and even thought it was better not be rescued to live like this. After a long time, with my mother’s love and care, I adjusted myself, although I still felt frustrated occasionally.
Two years later, I finally returned to school and received EGRC’s sponsorship and help. I was amazed that I was able to sit in the spacious and bright classroom to read and study again just like the others. All these things are so precious and I cherish very much.

Thank you EGRC for your care and support. This profound and powerful goodness will take root in my heart, and will blossom in every corner of my life.

Lihong Zhang headshot

Lihong Zhang

My name is Lihong, I was born in Gansu in 1999. Because I was a girl and the one-child policy was strictly enforced that time, after I was born I was given away to my relatives in Henan Province.

I did not grow up with my parents. At a young age I was determined to have a good education and have different life. But my adopted mother asked me to quit school once I finish grade nine. She does not believe girls should get further education. She talked about marring me after I finished grade nine. When I was 13 I ran back to my parents’ home in Gansu.

In my hometown Longxi, I was accepted into a high school in 2016 and received EGRC’s sponsorship. Coming across with EGRC made all the past misfortune worth the waiting. EGRC not only helped me financially, more importantly, it guided me to where I wanted to be.

EGRC offered me an uncommon opportunity in the summer of 2017. I participated in the summer English camp at Keystone Academy in Beijing and that was where I first met people who were from other countries. I experienced many unusual things that I never had the chance in the past. First time I was exposed to different cultures. I had my first time eating pizza; first time attending a party; first time swimming and playing volleyball… I had too many new experiences that it was an unforgettable and amazing journey. I was learning new things every day during that summer. That summer camp expanded my horizon, I learned more about this world.

I was accepted by Zhejiang Financial College in 2019. The summer of 2020 I went to visit my adopted parents in Henan. I was shocked to see that their 16 year old daughter not only got married, she was already eight months pregnant. Besides being shocked, I was fundamentally sad. I felt sorry for her.

In the same summer I was selected to join EGRC’s Future Leader Scholarship program. Hence I got the opportunity to attend the training camp led by the coach Lin Gao to learn public speaking and further discover ourselves. Then I joined the annual meeting with other EGRC sisters and our parents. Towards the end of summer I found a job to work in a vegetable warehouse. It was a hard work and had to deal with different kind of people. I worked 14 to 18 hours a day to sort out vegetables and earned some money for my coming school year. I learned a lot from this experience.

Every year I see Auntie Tien in the summer. She could not visit us in 2020 due to Covid regulations. She wrote us a letter. By hearing her words, I saw the smile on her face. We all missed her so much.

To me, Ching is a role model, she has made EGRC such a great organization. I might have dropped out of school if I never come across EGRC. I would never have my goal, my dream and my new understanding of this world without EGRC. I am not the only one, EGRC has helped over a thousand girls just like me. I have a dream, which is to devote myself into non-for-profit organizations just like EGRC, in order to help all the children in need.

Jia Liyan headshot

Jia Liyan

Over the years, whenever I look up, I see the familiar faces of many EGRC sisters, and when I see the smiling face of Auntie Tien, I felt at ease, at peace, with infinite attachment. This is where my strength come from.

My birth was an accident, it was not something that my parents had hoped for, I was the third daughter in our family. In a big family of four generations and over a dozen people, the presence of another daughter was not important.

When I was a young girl no one paid much attention to me, I was always very lonely. I would try my best to get my mother’s attention even if she was to scold me or punish me with a stick. Sometimes when she got tired of hitting me she would give me a hug and try to comfort me. A few years later she finally gave birth to a son. My family believed that the only reason for my existence was to bring that luck to the family.

There were two older girls in a neighboring household. Their family was just like ours, they also had three or four daughters, and the youngest child was a son. When I was seven or eight years old, the two girls committed suicide. For many years after that incident I didn’t dare go out and be home alone, I was very afraid. I always felt sick and had nightmares. It wasn't until 2006, when I left home and went to university those memories started to fade away.

When I was small I never knew what kind of world I would face in the future, what kind of person I could become, or what kind of dreams I could have. I never dared to imagine, I felt like I was as worthless as a salted fish. But in high school I came across a teacher who, like a ray of light, quietly brightened my world. It was the first time I felt that someone noticed me and cared about me. My teacher praised my talent and he talked to me about ideas. He told me about instances where great things could be achieved through hard work, and he told me about what kind of future I could have. He was the most unforgettable teacher I’ve ever had. I wanted to go to university, and wanted to be admitted to a well known university. So for my three years of high school, I fantasized about this dream while studying as diligently as I could.

Meeting EGRC was absolutely the most unexpected event, the biggest surprise, and the greatest gift. Without EGRC, my chances of going to university would have been extremely slim. There was no money at home, and I was not the child that my parents were willing to make big sacrifices for. Even if I had been accepted to university, I don’t how I would have been able to complete the four years of study.

The year I was accepted to university, I met a lady who was as gentle as the spring breeze, and wore stylish sunglasses on her head. She sat by a clean white bed in her hotel and entered my world with a grace and presence I had never seen before. Just one lady, and one group of girls. Before that I never knew women and men could be treated equally, I never knew that I had my own unique value, I never knew that charity could be like this.

Now it has been 14 years since I met Auntie Tien and EGRC. Day by day as I was immersed in compassion and goodwill, I felt the changes within myself. I also got to meet many outstanding women and girls. In 2009 I was invited to visit Vancouver, and I became the first President of the EGRC Alumni Association in 2014. Now I am the mother of two daughters, I know that my daughters will never have the experience that I lived. I want them to grow up surrounded by love and happiness.

Over the years, whenever I look up, I see the familiar faces of many EGRC sisters, and when I see the smiling face of Auntie Tien, I felt at ease, at peace, with infinite attachment. This is where my strength comes from.

Girl wearing a backpack walking down a dirt road

Sun Meimei

EGRC’s support has really provided hope and faith that my future will be different from my parents.

July 2020
From Sun Meimei – Grade 12 student

Time flies, I am going to graduate soon. During my three years in high school, even though I have been encouraged by my family, it was EGRC’s sponsorship and emotional support that made a real difference. It opened another world for me, and its support reduced a big financial burden from my family.
Growing up, my family has been always in despair whenever tuition fee was asked, as my parents had no idea how and where they could generate the funds for my education cost. And it was hard for me to ask money from them too. From a young age, I remember my socks were patched up on top of patch. My parents never bought any new clothes for themselves, and their clothes lost its original color after so many washes. Despite that, they still tried to save money to buy new clothes for me to avoid embarrassment at school.

Every time when there were parent meetings at school, my father wouldn’t go because he worried that his shabby appearance would embarrass me. He didn’t know that I wouldn’t be bothered as he was my father. This was how poverty affected on our lives. Years of hard labor work has ruined his health – even after my father had a couple of surgeries he still couldn’t stand up. He was only 50.

I understand that university education would make life-changing differences. I am determined to go, and my father had high expectations on me. EGRC’s support has really provided hope and faith that my future will be different from my parents. Thank you to EGRC again for providing all the possibilities.

Li Fangxia headshot

Li Fangxia

As time has passed I’ve come to see more clearly that good education is slow. The path that is difficult to travel is the path with the most brilliant landscape and scenery.

My name is Li Fangxia and I began to receive EGRC student sponsorship in 2011. I come from a small village with less than 20 households in Longxi County, Gansu Province. In 2015 I graduated from Northwestern Agriculture Technology University, I majored in Oenology (Grape Agriculture and Winemaking), and now I work for a Professional Liquor Company under China’s COFCO Group.

When I was a child I used to long for a digital clock. I remember that it always snowed heavily in the winter. There was no clock in my home, and I would often be woken by my mother in the very early morning, I would see out the window that it was especially bright outside from the light reflecting on the snow. I would rush to eat a bowl of my mother’s handmade noodles before hurrying to school. I would wait at the entrance of the school for the security guard to wake up and open the school gate. In those days, my greatest wish was to have a digital clock. They sold them at the small store in front of my school for just two yuan and they came in all different colours. The colour I liked the most was red. As I think back on that time, and I remember those days I woke up so early. I can only imagine how many times my mother must have got up in the night to check if daylight had come or not, wondering if she should call me to wake up to go to school…

After I graduated from university, I felt confused, as did many of my classmates. I didn’t know where to look for work or what to do, I just felt I didn’t want to follow my major and go into winemaking. Then one day I got back to my dormitory and found I had received an email from Auntie Tien. She encouraged me to try to follow my major and to go to Beijing or Shanghai. She advised I go to one of those big far away cities to try new things, learn English, and learn more about the industry I had studied in university… Now it has been five years since my graduation, and as I think back on those moments, I realize that if it was not for Auntie Tien’s care and encouragement, I would never have had the courage to try to go out into the bigger world with so many talented people, to experience a more open environment filled with so many possibilities.

Here is the email that Auntie Tien sent to encourage me. I have over 100 emails like this:

Lifang,
I understand how you must feel. I think that even if you already know you do not want to work in a winery, you can prepare to go into sales, and from sales you can look for work in the sales industry. Don’t worry too much about how high or low your salary is, the most important thing for you is to gain work experience. If you do sales for a while and realize you don’t like it, then you can take some time to figure out what it is that you like to do. Finding something you love to do is very important. But now you are still very young, you do not have to worry about losing time at this stage in your life.
If you go into wine sales, you should really go to a big city, like Beijing or Shanghai. You will increase your knowledge, and the possibility of encountering even better opportunities will be higher. You mentioned that there is an opportunity in Beijing. If I were you, I would definitely take it. Your EGRC sisters in Beijing will also help to take care of you. Ma Wenjing is a good example. In your industry having strong English is a must, this is very important. If your English is good, you will be able to find very good job opportunities. It is totally worth it to take about half a year to focus on studying English. When your English is good you will also have the opportunity to work for multinational companies.
After you get to Beijing you will certainly go on to find even better opportunities, the path is one step at a time; no one reaches the summit with the first step.
Let me know your decision.
Auntie Tien

I think this is what EGRC is all about, Auntie Tien’s impact on me: You don’t need to feel ashamed or afraid, just bravely go and try out as many possibilities as you can, even though the process is not easy. As time has passed I’ve come to see more clearly that good education is slow. The path that is difficult to travel is the path with the most brilliant landscape and scenery.

LiPen Chen headshot

Lipei Chen

Currently living in Beijing and working as a Chinese teacher at an International School and Freelance Writer, Chen was born in Gansu province in 1984 and studied at Northwest Normal University with a major in Chinese Literature.

This year is a special one for me. Not only does it mark Educating Girls of Rural China’s fifteenth anniversary, but it marks ten years from when I graduated from university. Looking back through the past decade my most formative experiences were a direct result of EGRC’s support.

Shortly after graduation, I went back to my hometown in Gansu to live. I took on a volunteer position at EGRC. My work was to connect alumni and help select new sponsored students.

Among the families I visited with, there was a very smart girl whose father had a congenital mental disorder, and whose mother was also mentally unwell. In their house I remember a deep, black crack that ran along the kitchen wall, caused by an earthquake. There was another girl I visited who had lost both parents in an earthquake. And another girl whose father was a construction worker who had died falling off a tall building. After this, her mother tried killing herself by jumping into a well, which left her with spine injuries. This girl’s mother developed a dissociative disorder and was locked up by her family in an abandoned barn so she would not attempt suicide or hurt the villagers. I can still remember her disturbed face and her empty, hopeless eyes.

Before meeting these families, I had thought that I was unlucky. I realized, however, that as a person, it is you who decides if you are lucky or not. As the saying goes: “When you are complaining over not having shoes, there are some people who have no feet.”

Another experience I recall was when I went to the Canadian Embassy and participated in an event about anti-domestic violence. I heard a Canadian woman sharing her own experiences of suffering and violence. I was inspired by her courage and remembered what I had been through when I was young. My father beat my mother with sticks, and my brother and I were frightened, curled up in the corner. Witnessing our mother being beaten, and with nowhere to escape, we could barely breathe. A few days later, my grandmother came to visit my mother. As she tended to my mother I saw the bruises on her waist under her clothes. I clearly remember what my grandmother said: “For the sake of the children, you need to bear this. We women were born with this fate.”

I was determined that I would not let the same misfortune that happened to my grandmother and my mother happen to me. Although my mother couldn’t read, she realized the importance of education and encouraged me to attend university.

Because of EGRC, I have been lucky to have opportunities to participate in activities that have contributed to my growth as a woman. These activities have been eye-opening and have allowed me to make amends with my past.

Through the belief that “Educated Women have Educated Children”, EGRC has not only sponsored me with my education, but has given me courage and confidence to live an independent life.
One of my focuses now is to ensure my own child has access to education.