Yang Shengying and her 11 years with the Leishan Women’s Center in Guizhou
Dictated by Yang Shengying and edited by Yang Xiaomin
Brief Introduction of Ms.Yang Shengying: Female, a local from Maoping, Miao Nationality in Leishan County, Guizhou Province. She is one of the administrators in Maoping Women’s Center. Ever since she moved back home from the city in 2007, she has been volunteering for Zigen for 11 years.
“Time goes by so quickly! It’s the 30th Anniversary of Zigen! And it has been 11 years since I moved back home in 2007!” Ms.Yang Shengying remarks. Once she learns that the interview is for Zigen 30th Anniversary, Shengying’s face is filled with excitement and happiness. Her hair seems a bit messy but she’s delighted with joy and there are sparkles in her eyes.
In the past 11 years working with Zigen, on top of Shengying’s regular work such as farming, the most important activity is going to the Maoping Women’s Center with other women to clean and to open windows allowing warm sunlight to enter the space on Sundays.
As night falls, Shengying finishes her work in the field and returns home. She quickly puts down her work gear and rushes through the pebble stone streets of the Maoping Miao village to the Women’s Center, making sure all windows and doors are shut. Shengying and the team always organizes workshops such as learning embroidery and other activities in Women’s Center. This encourages interaction between women in the village and subsequently helps to improve their embroidery skills. Shengying states, as one of the administrators of the Center, regardless of how heavy her workload is in the fields, it is mandatory to clean and to maintain the cleanliness of the Center.
When discussing her personal story with Zigen, the sturdy and honest Shengying slowly tells us her 11 year journey of their growing up together. “I first knew about Zigen when I was about to enroll in Grade 1 in 1990, Ms. Pat Kwei Ping Yang from Zigen came to Maoping Village and provided funds for girls’ schooling fees. My sister and I were sponsored by these funds. There was no compulsory education and free school fees policy back in 1990, and due to poverty, many families could not afford the school fees. As a result, not many children could go to school, let alone girls, as it’s a patriarchal society that values the male child more. Thanks to Zigen’s sponsorship, many girls in our village were going to schools and we were all so grateful. But since I was still so young, I didn’t even know the name of this charity that helped us immensely and I didn’t know Ms. Yang’s name. I remembered everyone calling this caring lady, Teacher Yang. We couldn’t write a proper thank you letter as we just started schooling, so our teacher suggested each of us write a thank you sentence and send it to Teacher Yang.
Not long after I was being sponsored, Teacher Yang learned that I came from a single-parent family, my mother was taking care of four children, she also sponsored my little brother. At the time, the Zigen project mainly focused on sponsoring girls but Teacher Yang helped our family regardless and I was extremely touched by her kindness. A stranger to our family, helped and supported us without wanting anything in return. We were able to go to school and Teacher Yang was like a mother to us. We are so fortunate to meet Teacher Yang and have Zigen in our life. There’s only gratitude when I think of it.
As I’m touched by Zigen and everything Zigen has done for our Miao village, I become a Zigen volunteer. In 2007, my husband and I moved back home from the city and I started participating Zigen Projects in Maoping. The fields in our village were infertile, so the majority of people including women were working in other cities in 2009. The large absence of women affected the management of Women’s Center in Maoping funded by Zigen. A teacher from Zigen got in touch with me and as a way of showing my gratitude to Zigen, I took on the work of assisting the management of the Center and officially became a Zigen volunteer. Since 2007, I have been doing farm works at home and assisting Zigen with their projects in Maoping and with a blink of an eye, it’s been 11 years.
Shengying is so grateful for Zigen’s help that her siblings and herself received in their childhood and she is sentimental when talking about it. She wants to do something for Zigen and to spread this love. It’s important to appreciate and to return the love that she received from Zigen.
Talking about her journey and the people she have met in the past 11 years, Shengying is filled with affection, “Ms. Pat Kwei-Ping Yang and Ms. Li Bi Lin (Bik-Lam Lee) treat me as if i’m their daughter and they show so much love for Maoping women and children. I feel extremely happy everytime I see them.”
One-time Ms. Li (Bik-Lam Lee) called me from the States, it was 4pm in China and midnight over there. Ms.Li said she was awake and missed us so she called to see if everyone is doing good and if the work at the Center is well underway. I cried when I heard about it, it’s midnight and Ms.Li thought about us! This is the moment that I can never forget.
The Center is hard hit by flooding
Our village was damaged and hard hit by a serious flood on May 27, 2015. It was the worst it has been in the past hundred years. The first floor of the center was flooded; furniture such as chairs, desks, walls and even the grounds were all damaged. My husband, other volunteers and I cleaned for days. We were so worried about it and couldn’t do other work. We used carrying poles to remove the muddy residues. All we could think of was to restore the Center as soon as we could. The Center was built upon funding from Zigen, it’s the only community center and we have to restore it to its original state.
Shengying pauses for a long time, later we found out that one of the volunteer, Ms.Wu Wo Xiong had passed away; Ms.Wu was a very friendly person that supported her and Zigen projects. She was one of the volunteers who helped to restore the Center.
I will continue to be a Zigen Volunteer in Maoping Village
Shengying remarks, “As long as Zigen needs me, I’ll do my best to help because everything Zigen does is for us. Zigen’s projects helps with the development of poor villages and improves poor people’s lives.”
Shengying continues: “It’s been 30 years since Teacher Yang first visited Maoping Village in 1989. In the past decades, Zigen has done many proactive projects (for example, sponsoring girls to university students, opening night school for women to improve literacy, advocating public health/hygiene, installing garbage cans for waste disposal and so many mores that I can’t even keep a count. “
Maoping Village has been transformed completely by the presence of Zigen. After going to night study groups, women learn how to write their own names and to communicate with others in Mandarin. They are now aware of the importance of personal health; they know how to prevent illness. Recycling is now a common practice, and parents understand the significance of education for their children. Women earn extra incomes from the Embroidery Group and they don’t have to migrate to other cities. They earn themselves rights in the family. The enrollment rate of girls has increased drastically and there are more university graduates. Maoping Village has undergone a transformation both internally and externally in the past thirty years.
From the very first sponsoring girl’s education, Zigen has also been working on areas such as school development, adult education, health and hygiene, environmental protection and cultural preservation in the past thirty years. Zigen’s values and beliefs in a long-term sustainable development have brought a positive impact in Maoping. These changes, whether obvious or not, are all clearly carved in Shengying’s mind.
At the end of this interview, Shengying states, “With a blink of eye, Zigen is welcoming its 30th Anniversary. I hope Zigen all the best. I am so proud and happy to be a Zigen volunteer for the past 11 years and I will continue to volunteer for Zigen.”
I can almost recall the day when Zigen founder Pat Kwei-Ping Yang and others first visited Maoping Village 30 years ago from Shengying’s teary eyes. I can picture 30 years ago, when girls were not able to go to school due to traditional values…… And I also see anonymous volunteers like Shengying who is genuine and dedicate themselves to the development of China’s poor rural villages.
Shengying has persevered for 11 years and I know for certain that she will continue onwards.
 Yang Xiaomin, a local from Maoping Village in Leishan, Guizhou Province. She was a Zigen sponsored child and now is being sponsored by the University Funds Project. She has become a volunteer and is currently studying in Qiannan Normal University for Nationalities. This article was interviewed by Ms.Yang Xiaomin and her brother and finally edited by her.
 In October 2003, Zigen built the Women’s Center in Maoping Village. It is managed and operated by local women. It provides a great platform for women and villagers to study and to interact. With the help of Ms. Li Bi Lin (Bik-Lam Lee) and other volunteers, the Women’s Embroidery Group was founded, half of the revenue is used towards the Center and women receive the other half. This greatly helps to increase their income and most importantly, helps with their confidence. Equality between men and women is now possible due to education. Women used to not have a voice back in the days, now they can participate freely in village activities and have a say in their families.
Translated by Maggie Weng
Edited by Solo Tung