By Anna Li

This summer, from July 2 to August 14,2013, I traveled with my parents and younger sister to Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and Japan. One of the most unforgettable experiences for me on this trip was my visit to Sichuan, China. There, I visited an elementary school, entirely built and founded by volunteers.

On my first visit, the principal gave us a tour around the area, including three students’ homes. Some are orphans living with the responsibility of taking care of their younger siblings and elders. Others live alone with their grandparents, the adults living miles away, working in order to earn money and keep them alive. Every day, these students had to climb over hills and mountains for up to 6 hours just to go to school. Most of the students in 5th grade are the same age as me, yet aren’t in 8th grade because they don’t have the opportunity to start school as early as we do.

During my second visit to the elementary school, I interviewed two students. One 5th grader was a 12 year old girl named Ji Bu Wu Jia. Her family includes her mother, who is ill, father, grandmother, younger brother, and older brother. For money, her dad works outside of the area. She has to walk 4 hours every day to school. According to her teacher, her grades are poor, but she is a very determined student. Another 5th grader was a 13 year old boy named Qu Mu Gu Er Ri. He lives close to the school and his family consisted of his 4 siblings, grandma, grandpa, mom, and dad. His mother works at home, while his dad works outside for money. There are many students who are just like them: unable to attend a public school; this volunteer-founded school was a new opportunity.

What also really touched me were the volunteers who help and support these children. An elderly couple came from Japan to entertain the children by putting on puppet shows. Another organization, in Hong Kong, raised enough money to support the school’s lunch funds so that every day, each student can receive a free lunch consisting of an egg, a glass of milk, and a slice of bread. These generous people’s actions really inspired me to do something just as impactful.