It was a terrible tragedy that brought Free the Children to China. In 2002, 38 children between the ages of eight and 11 were killed in a factory explosion while putting together fireworks to pay for their schooling.
Those 38 children lost their lives because they were forced into dangerous labor rather than being enrolled in school, a problem that can be seen all across China.
China’s education system is woefully underfunded and there is a shortage of schools in rural areas. That means many rural students must take a long, difficult, and often incredibly 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 to work to help support their families rather than go to school. In fact, more than five million Chinese children don’t attend school, and are working in situations of child labor.
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.
There is great inequality between boys’ and girls’ access to education, so much of our work focuses on girls and women. By providing communities with access to Adopt a Village initiatives, Free The Children is empowering people with the tools they need to transform their lives.
Here are some of the projects we are proud to work on in China:
An innovative community that smiles in the face of adversity, Aluo has managed successfully to rebuild itself after a devastating earthquake, and Free The Children is proud to be part of the story. Here are some of the ways we’ve partnered to help this community re-build:
In 2008, the Aluo School was in session when an earthquake struck the region. Though students managed to escape, the school buildings were seriously damaged and unusable.
When Free the Children came to the community, students were attending a temporary school their parents had built out of mud. The school only accommodated Grades 1 to 3 and lacked space and resources. The rooms were dark and dirty with no electricity or heating. Students in Grades 4 to 6 were forced to attend school in a neighboring village. They walked there every Sunday night—a three-hour trek through the mountains—and returned home on Friday after the school week finished.
Since 2009, and with the help of community volunteers, Free The Children has built a new and much larger school for students from Grades 1 to 6.
The earthquake that demolished Aluo’s school also destroyed its water source, forcing girls to walk a kilometer outside the village for water.
Free The Children collaborated with the government to establish a water source in Aluo. A pipe from a local spring now connects the school to clean water.
The absence of clean water and sanitary practices meant that children consistently suffered from diarrhea and other diseases.
To ensure the sustainability of all these projects, the community needs to be self-sufficient. Free The Children’s alternative income and livelihood projects fill the gap. These projects in Aluo have two components: