I am connected to China. I am Chinese. And, I have some Chinese food in my kitchen and I own a decent amount of made-in-China stuff. Check your own home, it’s likely that you do too.
Some people might assume that all of China is rich because it is a super economy. But, the illusion of a rich China casts a huge shadow on the largely poor China that exists. This is the China, and you can easily see this stark reality in one number alone. Around 300,000,000 people in rural China live in poverty. Wai?
Wokai means ‘I start [an enterprise]’ in the Chinese language. Like its sisters, the new (unofficial almost official) branch in Toronto is a non-profit organization with one purpose: to loan money to (very) poor and (very) ambitious Chinese for their businesses. In a fancy word, we can call it microfinancing.
It’s simple enough, and that’s why it works. Proof? Over $130,000 has been raised in microloan capital. Donors and supporters like Amanda Yiu make it work. A York University business graduate, Amanda started the Toronto chapter of Wokai in October of 2009 with the approval of the Wokai founder, Casey Wilson. It took no time for volunteer recruitment to go all gung-ho. Targets? Friends from school. It was the likely combination of being Asian + a university student that seeded an interest in Wokai as a donor or supporter.
They had connections or a sense of a connection to China too. In Amanda’s case, it started with a visit to the HH, or the Heng Ha, rural China. After a visit to her grandfather’s house, now in shambles, “the family that moved in were homeless…they were selling peaches from the peach tree to support the family with children.” It was one of those experiences that carved a vivid picture. Amanda spoke passionately about her wish to help. A Google search with the keywords, ‘microfinancing in China’ led her to Wokai.
In my own search on Wokai, I found Wuyun Tonglaga from Chifeng, Inner Mongolia. Her story cannot be told in any words other than her own.
“My name is Wuyun Tonglaga, it means “intelligent” in Mandarin. I’m a herdswoman from a village near the town of Daban, Inner Mongolia. This year I’m 45 years old. There are three people in my family. We are very poor and have no reliable form of income, sometimes we just don’t know where our next meal is coming from. Our daughter left school before completing junior high to help earn money so that her little sister could go to school. Her little sister loves learning, at the moment she’s in high school, and is going to take her university entrance exams this year. Seven years ago, in order to ensure that we were all fed and clothed, my husband went to work in a brickyard. The work was too hard for him and the pressure of life was too much- in the end, he died from exhaustion. This was almost too much for our family to handle; everyone was suddenly dependent on me. Sometimes there was so much pressure that I could hardly breathe. We are now raising ten sheep; I hope to borrow 2000 RMB to invest it in breeding more livestock. I want to buy 15 more lambs in order to grow our flock so that I can make some money to support my youngest daughter through university. Never again will I let my child leave school because of money problems, or let a child of mine feel inferior or anxious because of a lack of education.” via http://wokai.org.
Now, events and goals have been set in place for the success of Wokai to help people like Wuyun Tonglaga. Spreading the word of the poverty and need for help in China. Spreading the word of Wokai.
Community outreach has been the key to achieve those goals. Touching the hearts with words from Wokai happen in the school classroom, brown bag lunches with corporations, fundraising events, guest speakers and more. In Amanda’s own words, “it’s something we want to do is go to universities, and have guest lecturers to spread the world to the younger generation as to what microfinance is.”
WHY WOKAI: Stop and think. What would life be like to without your fancy smartphone, home, and easy access to fast food. Multiple that hardship by a thousand. That’s poverty, and it exists in China. Wokai can help with your help.
WHAT I JUST DID: I donated to help Wuyun Tonglaga. It was easy, and it feels good.
WHAT I JUST DARED YOU TO DO: Find out more about Wokai by taking part in their upcoming event. Join the Wokai Facebook page. Volunteer your time or donate to Wokai. Have heart and have fun doing it – meeting other people with passion of Wokai.