Journey to Butuo – The Fu Hui Foundation and the lives that it’s changed

CHINA GCELE 2015

To say that this trip to China has been the greatest most impactful experience of my life would be an understatement. How do you begin to tell the story of a journey that has changed so many lives? Not just of the college students and teachers who participated in this experience, but of the children who we worked with and who have had a chance at a better life through the Fu Hui Educational foundation.

The Whole Group
The Whole Group

Into the Mountains…

The car ride into the mountains from Xichang to Butuo was rocky, to say the least. The rugged roads were extremely bumpy and winding through the most gorgeous landscapes. We passed villages filled with houses mostly of the same build, marked with the Yi emblem. Female villagers (and even some children) walked by with big woven baskets from working in the fields. Livestock seemed to roam freely and children (from infancy up) in groups or alone were also on the sides of the road, seeming to be taking care of each other, an image most of us can’t comprehend. Men were seen sitting in groups on the sides of the streets in conversation while women were weaving intricate coats that we’d see other villagers sporting. I asked one of the Volunteers Sylvia why it was almost all women I saw working and she advised me that men were more privileged in the Yi society, and therefore didn’t need to work, a fact that not only baffled me by it’s inequality but also by the economic stress it must cause.

Hardworking women and children of Butuo
Hardworking women and children of Butuo

Home Visits…

On our first day in the mountains we went on home visits to some of the Fu hui students homes, which would result in being one of our most emotional days of the trip. Seeing the living conditions of their homes was eye opening, there was no plumbing, no electricity, a bed shared by 3 was a luxury, a roof made of straw that leaked when it rained, all things we take for granted back home. The home I visited was of a girl named Sai Zi (pronounced Sigh-Zuh) who’s Grandmother was raising her and her older brother, after her father died and her mother was remarried and moved away. The Grandmother was moved to tears and brought many of us to tears in return, we told her what a great job she had been doing raising her grandchildren. When she was given some eggs (a valuble commodity to the Yi people) she offered one to Sai Zi and one to her neighbour, a gesture so generous of someone with so little. 

Inside Sai Zi's home with her Grandmother and Brother
Inside Sai Zi’s home with her Grandmother and Brother

Walking back to the school holding Sai Zi’s hand, I didn’t want to let go, I wanted to bring her home with me to have a better life, but I knew it wasn’t my place, that through Fu Hui she was getting an education and a chance for a better life. A chance I pray her brother gets as well, as he’s unsponsored and less likely to escape the hardships that his elders had.

Not wanting to let go
Not wanting to let go
With Sai Zi and her brother
With Sai Zi and her brother

That same day, gathered in a circle we learned and danced with the Fu hui students their traditional Yi dance. It felt amazing and welcoming to be able to share that with the children. All of these activities helped prepare us for what was to come, our whole purpose of this journey to China: to run the empowerment camps. And now that we were aquainted with the children and understood their backrounds, another part of our journey was about to begin.

Dancing the Yi traditional dance
Dancing the Yi traditional dance

Stay tuned for Part 2…

By Julia Frankling

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