Alpha Communities works in areas where average household income is below 1500RMB ($US250). The rate of illiteracy in these households is also high, and many can’t afford to send their children to school. Getting a good education is the only way for them to find a job and break the cycle of poverty.
For this reason, we sponsor students from poor families, paying their school fees, and a part of their living expenses. This commitment is up to and including university study to ensure maximum benefit for households and the wider community. We have a personal relationship with each of these students, helping them not only financially, but also trying to invest moral values into their lives and that of their families.
One of the challenges in the kind of work we do is not to create dependency but still to use the physical and cultural capital we have to release potential. Knowing how and when to stop is as important as knowing how and when to start.
So, meet Joshua (not his real name, obviously). He’s 12 or 13 in the photograph below, at the time we began sponsoring him in 2005.
At that time Joshua’s father was serving a 3-year prison sentence for stealing yaks, and his mother was ill with tumours in her head and stomach, so she could not work. As a consequence Joshua’s sister left school to help out at home. The mother’s illness had incurred medical bills of over 40,000 RMB. At first the family sold yaks to repay their dept, then they had to borrow money at horrendous interest rates.
In this context we sponsored Joshua to attend school. He is a good student and has done very well. So much so that his family wanted him to attend a more prestigious high school some distance from his home area, in the county capital. He took the entry examination and qualified to study there. We were very proud of him. However this course involved extra fees which we felt Alpha should not pay as it was beyond the initial brief to help this family to the first level of self-sufficiency, particularly given the needs of others.
In negotiation with the family, Joshua’s uncle is now sponsoring him to this new school. In his most recent communication with us Joshua notes:
“My mother brought me and my sister up, although she was not in good health. After being released from prison, my father suffered from a minor heart disease. He tried his hand at small business. Later, my uncle found a job at a government office and now he often supports our family by giving us money and clothes. He now sponsors me to go to my current school. Now our living conditions are better. We have 20 yaks now, but do not have our own house yet.”
We apologise for the lack of an updated photograph – access remains difficult and no snap was taken on our last visit. But clearly there has been much positive growth and development for this young man and his family.
We are happy that this family is able to be more self-sufficient. There is a time to step back. Even so, we will continue to monitor the situation as we keep in contact with them in the future.