A terrible tragedy brought Free The Children to China. In 2002, 38 children, aged 8 to 11, were killed in an explosion at a fireworks factory where they worked to support their families.
Those children lost their lives because they were forced into dangerous labor instead of attending school, a problem that can be seen all across China.
China’s education system is woefully underfunded and there is often a shortage of schools in rural areas. That means many students must take a long, difficult, and often dangerous trek to get to class.
Other children can’t go to school at all. Going to school costs money, and the poverty prevalent in rural China forces many children into factories instead of classrooms. In fact, it is estimated that more than five million Chinese children work as laborers.
In response to the tragedy at the fireworks factory, Free The Children partnered with local governments to build and furnish more schools in rural communities.
No matter where we work in rural China, educating young people, especially girls, continues to be our main priority. Across the country where education is underfunded and there is a shortage of schools, we have helped to construct and develop over a dozen schools, comprised of over 100 classrooms. Our work is often done quietly, allowing local communities to take the lead in all aspects of program delivery. We seek to fully turn over the projects to them to ensure independence of program delivery.
Free The Children also often works with local governments to provide communities with Agriculture and Food Security programs and Alternative Income opportunities, such as animal husbandry, and to meet specific requests to assist students and their families.
Our Adopt a Village model is tailored to the needs and realities of each country where we work. In rural China, relationships with local governments shape and guide which pillars we implement and how we implement them.
Here are some of the initiatives we are proud to work on in China:
Children living in rural China are often hobbled by poverty and underfunded schools. Free The Children works in rural communities to help remove barriers to attending school. We help by:
In the rural Chinese communities where we work, people need access to clean or reliable sources of water and sanitation facilities to prevent health problems such as diarrhea. We have helped by partnering with local officials to provide:
Children in rural China often don’t have access to plentiful and nutritious food. The Rural Education Action Project reports that 34 per cent of rural Chinese children have iron deficiency anemia, and 40 per cent are infected with intestinal worms. Chronic drought means farmers can’t produce enough crops to feed their families. In the communities where we work, we have provided:
In the rural Chinese communities where we work, people need opportunities and skills to earn an income so they can feed their families and send their children to school. We have helped by:
When crops fail due to drought or harsh winters, farmers in the communities of Gufubao and Wujiazhuang struggle to feed their families; their ancient tools and techniques are no match for the extreme weather. With the support of Free The Children’s Agriculture and Food Security pillar, which is made possible by PotashCorp, these farmers in northern Hebei province have had the opportunity to learn about innovative farming techniques that are creating healthy, self-sustaining food sources.
In 2013, Free The Children and PotashCorp began working with hundreds of farmers in Gufubao and Wujiazhuang to build irrigation systems, provide agriculture training, and help them acquire the resources and tools they need to become food secure.
Within three years, farmers with greater knowledge, training and land conditioning tools were seeing higher yields of vegetables and grains. Acres of irrigated fields were lush with maize, potatoes and millet. Hundreds of young trees were bearing fruit. Newly built storage houses were better protecting these crops against spoilage, and families with access to more balanced, nutritious diets were seeing improvements in the health of their children.
After only three years of programming, an independent impact assessment study showed that in Gufubao and Wujiazhuang: