A valuable lesson

The first day of our trip we visited a school that hasn’t received any funding from the IKEA Foundation yet. It is located in a village approximately 2-hours away from DaDong School.

The weather condition was less than perfect, it’s been raining all day long, and along the way there were some steep parts; but despite the rain, the teachers and staff were all waiting for us outside the school when we got there

DaDong School

The outside of the school looks quite new, but inside the classrooms it was a different story. The desks and chairs were very worn down. Most of the students live a distance away from the school, so they actually live at the school during the week; and the most surprising part is that due to lack of space, some of the bunk beds were put inside the classrooms. The class that I visited was one of these “classroom/bedroom” which means the blackboard was at the front of the classroom while the beds were at the back; it’s just hard to believe that the children had to rest and study in the same room.

Bunk beds for the children
The classroom/bedroom
Bunk beds
The children's toiletries

We attended a language class with the children, followed by playing various games together; the children were very shy in the beginning, especially when we talked to them (most of them are Hani tribe kids, which means they don’t speak Mandarin), and more so when you tried to take a photo of them. But the barrier was quickly broken when we showed them the photos that we took, or when we took out the soft toys to play with them. Children are just like that –straightforward – they laugh when they are happy, and the sound of their laughter brought back my childhood memories, and I started to laugh just as much as the children.

The most memorable moment was when I saw how the children treasured the soft toys. They instinctively pat the toys or give them a kiss, something that not all children would be able to appreciate.

Lunch time came around, the students all ran to the canteen and lined up for their lunch, which is just a small amount of meat with vegetables. When I saw how much rice each of them had in their bowls, I joked about what a big appetite they had; it wasn’t until later that I learned they only get 2 meals a day, I felt so bad at my ignorance.

Lunch time! Students rushing over to canteen
All lined up to wait for their turns

There wasn’t anywhere for the children to sit down properly to eat. Instead, they could choose to eat in the classroom or outside; although it was raining, most of them still choose to sit outside…I guess they just didn’t want to be trapped inside a classroom all day long.

Crouching together to enjoy their lunch

Later in the afternoon we went on a home visit. The walk proved to be a challenge for me – the track leading to the homes was rough and beaten, and the air was filled with the mixed smell of cow dung and pigpen; I have myself to blame for not being able to adapt to the environment…

The rough and beaten track

The home that we visited was just like all the others in the village. There was minimal decoration and not enough light; in my eyes there is so much that the villagers lack, but for them the house is a sanctuary.

Outside the house

What I saw on the 1st day of the trip not only let me understand more about the life of the villagers, and the learning environment of the children; it also made me reflect upon my own life – what is it that we really need?

    Gladys Ma