Pencils & Peppers
Home | About Us | Community Service | Around the World | Pencils & Peppers
Pencils & Peppers

OAT travelers and regional staff plant seeds for the future at a Chinese primary school

The ancient Chinese capital of Xian is most famous for its Terra Cotta Army, a treasure trove of 6,400 life-sized terra cotta figures discovered accidentally in the early 1970s by farmers digging a well. But Xian's future treasures sit in the classrooms of its schools, including the Guang Ming Primary School in Hu Xian County—a Grand Circle Foundation partner since 2004.

According to Elaine Yau, Grand Circle and OAT's Regional General Manager of North Asia, "Children in cities take it for granted that they'll have pencil boxes and colored pencils." For the more than 300 children of Guang Ming, on the other hand, these basic school supplies are something of a luxury, so the regional office staff decided to provide the children with that gift.

On June 14, despite sweltering 100-degree heat, Guang Ming students warmly welcomed a group of 16 travelers on OAT's Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze River adventure, along with Trip Leader Alex Yang and OAT's regional office staff. The children performed a tango and encouraged the visitors to dance with them as they entered one of the classrooms. Throughout the school, the travelers saw 60 sets of new desks and benches that Grand Circle Foundation had donated to the school in March, and they distributed 350 packages of black pencils, 350 packages of colored pencils, and 25 school bags among their delighted, pint-sized hosts. "They were so excited when receiving these 'big' gifts from Grand Circle Foundation!" Elaine reports.

The team's service to the school didn't end there. Together with the children, the travelers and OAT associates then worked in the school's small garden, planting green onions, eggplant, bell peppers, and beans. When the vegetables ripen, they will be given to some of the poorer students to supplement their diets. "Everyone was so happy to see the final result of the garden," says Elaine.

Throughout the course of their visit, the travelers—and other OAT travelers before them—left another, less tangible gift, as well. According to Elaine, interacting with OAT travelers has greatly improved not only the children's English skills, but also their self confidence. "They learn English from our travelers with laughter and joy," she says. Reflecting on the day, she adds, "Looking at the big happy family pictures of us, you will know how happy we were!"

Featured in our July 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.