The Zigen Fund: Twenty Years of Helping Underprivileged in China
“Zigen Fund” has supported people in the poorest rural areas of China by providing basic education, primary health care, preserving local heritage, and promoting international partnerships for over twenty years. Let’s find out with YL volunteer HyeSu Han what’s going on in rural China and how Zigen Fund has helped the disadvantaged for over twenty years.
As we all know, China is rising. Yes. China is experiencing the fastest economic growth in the world. We can easily read on a newspaper or hear from teacher that a lot of economists predict China will be the world’s largest economy in the next twenty years. But, China becoming the superpower is not necessarily a good thing for some people in China. Why?! Because we tend to forget one thing…INEQUALITY. Income gap between the rich and the poor is increasing significantly. People living in urban society and from upper class / upper-middle class background are accumulating large wealth, but people living in rural districts are struggling to make an everyday living.
Hsu-Lin Tung and Pat Kwei-Ping Yang discovered that a lot of kids, especially girls do not go to school simply because parents could not afford tuition. They became aware of difficulties in education and lack of basic health care in the countryside, and wanted to start and promote grassroots development. In result, they found a nonprofit organization “Zigen Fund” in 1988.
It started with providing financial supports to roughly 300 girls in twelve villages. Now, the organization significantly expanded its support of projects in (1) basic school education, (2) adult education and (3) rural community development (basic health care, environmentally sound technologies and small-scale cultural and economic development).
What are their main programs?
1. Basic Education: Zigen Fund provides scholarships to children who cannot afford to get basic school education. They also funds extracurricular activities and try to improve student life by supporting lunch supplements, toilet construction, heating facilities and drinking water installation.
2. Adult Education: In collaboration with local universities and institutions, Zigen developed literacy program and agriculture training sessions including migrant worker training. Zigen Fund recently re-adjusted its priorities to make adult education as their main concern.
4. Environmentally-Sound Technologies: They promote integrated and sustainable socioeconomic development to improve the livelihood of villagers on the basis of grassroots participation and environmental awareness. In 2009, Zigen supported the construction of wood-conserving stoves for 90 households in Guizhou. It reduced the amount of wood used, protected trees, and reduced women’s burden.
5. Rural Village Development: They provide small loans to joint economic projects between villagers, constructs women’s center and support cultural events.
6. Migrant Workers Community: The Zigen sponsored center in a suburb of Beijing organizes community events, competitions, educational and self-improvement classes for migrant workers. They offer migrant workers’ children homework assistance, after-school care, and extra-curricular activities.
7. International Partnerships: Zigen organizes international educational exchange programs and encourage mutual understanding between rural villagers and overseas communities.
Where do they stand now?
The annual revenue has grown from $3,000 to $700,000. Despite the global financial crisis, the amount of donation ($913,375) received surpassed 18% of what they received in 2007.
As of 2008, Zigen accomplished projects in 265 villages in 17 provinces and provided more than 90,000 scholarships to students to cover tuition and textbook costs. Early project only involved scholarship program, but now they have many other projects.
Early projects only had scholarship program, but now they range from improvement of educational environment, basic medical support, and rural environment protection, to support of children of migrant workers.
Zigen sponsored the production of several documentary films focusing on rural education and healthcare for raising public awareness.
Be Part of Their Change!
Every Single Act You Do Make a Big Difference!!!
Zigen Fund works relies heavily on private contributions and volunteers. There are a number of ways to help Zigen’s projects. You could make a one-time donation, or sponsor an entire project, or offer your time to introduce Zigen Fund in your community or join volunteer teams and contribute your skills and talents!
HyeSu is an undergraduate studying Sociology in New York from South Korea. She is outgoing, independent, adventurous. She likes to sing, play musical instruments, go snowboarding, and traveling. She is passionate about learning different languages and is currently learning Mandarin, Japanese, and Hindi. She started to see more seriously about the world when she saw many people struggling from poverty when she went to Philippines as a volunteer. She volunteered at a local court as a victim’s witness program assistant. Currently, she is actively engaged in various local community services.