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.

Unforgettable moments

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.  


[1] 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.

[2] 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

从受助女童到滋根志愿者

贵州雷山杨胜英坚守毛坪妇女中心十一载

文|杨胜英口述,杨晓敏[1]整理

人物简介:杨胜英,女,贵州省雷山县毛坪苗寨人,毛坪妇女中心[2]管理员之一。2007年从外地打工回家务农的同时,参与到滋根志愿者工作中来,已经整整坚持了十一年。

“时间过得真快,滋根都30周年了啊,2007年从我回家到现在都有11年了嘞”,杨胜英用有力又绵长的语气说着。得知是滋根30年专访,杨胜英干燥的脸上激动地乐开了花,眉毛也笑成了一弯新月。她看上去头发有点凌乱,但眼睛里却充满温暖和喜悦。

在过去协助滋根工作,管理妇女中心的时光里,杨胜英除了干农活外,最重要的事情就是周日和妇女一起,去到由滋根捐资修建用做妇女集体活动的“毛坪妇女中心”(以下简称中心),打开门窗让暖暖的阳光照进屋子,清扫打理。

夜幕降临,刚从地里干完农活的杨胜英回到家放下农具,又会急匆匆穿过毛坪苗寨的青石板路到妇女中心关好门窗。杨胜英和管理小组成员会经常组织村子里的妇女们集中到中心学习刺绣、做活动等,她们用集中学习、活动来促进村子里妇女的交流,而且无形中也提升了妇女们的刺绣技艺。杨胜英说作为中心管理员之一,不管农活多忙都一定要来打扫妇女中心,让这里干干净净的

坚守滋根毛坪妇女中心十一载

谈到她和滋根的结缘,敦厚质朴的杨胜英说这11年时光里她与滋根一同成长的历程。

“刚开始知道滋根是1990年我准备上一年级的时候,当时滋根杨贵平老师来到我们毛坪村资助女童学杂费让女童上学,我和我的姐姐也是受助的女孩。1990年还没有义务教育免除学杂费的政策,因为贫穷,很多的家庭都供不起孩子的学杂费,能上学的孩子很少。加上受到传统重男轻女思想的影响,女童更是少之又少。滋根资助后,村子里很多女童都上学了,大家特别感激。但那时因为年幼,获资助了都不知道资助我们的公益组织叫做‘滋根’,也不知道来看我们的女士叫做杨贵平,只记得当时大家都称那位和蔼的阿姨为‘杨老师’。因为刚上学很多学生不能独立写出一封感谢信,所以老师便会组织整个班的同学每人写上一句两句话,最后合成一封感谢信寄过去给杨老师。

我被资助后不久,杨老师知道我家是单亲家庭,母亲一人带着四个子女,生活过得十分拮据和困难,杨老师也资助了我的弟弟。当时滋根主要是支持女童,这件事情让我格外感动,一个陌生人、一个陌生的组织,毫无保留不求回报地给我们帮助,让我们去学校里接受教育。那时杨老师给我们的感觉就像是我们兄妹的另一个母亲一样,无微不至地关心着我们。我不知道我们是何德何能在当时遇到了杨老师、遇到了滋根,现在每每回想起来都倍加觉得温暖和幸运。

同时因为感动于滋根的大爱和为我们苗寨所做的事,后来我也加入到滋根的志愿者行列中。2007年和丈夫从外地打工回到家乡,我便开始参与滋根在毛坪的一些项目。2009年,因村子土地贫瘠,大部分年轻人,包括妇女都外出务工谋生。大量妇女的外出导致了滋根在我们毛坪村建起的妇女活动中心无人管理,那时候滋根的老师来到村里联系了我。因为在小时候受到了滋根的资助,我便毅然地接下了协助滋根管理妇女中心的工作,真正加入到滋根志愿者的行列。从2007年回来到现在我一直在家务农,也一直在协助着滋根在我们毛坪这边的爱心项目,时间过的可真快,一转眼十一年了。”

对于滋根在儿童时期对自己及姐弟的帮助,杨胜英感激不已。在讲述这段往事时一度哽咽。她说小时候受到了滋根的帮助,就应该要懂得感恩回报,她虽没有很高深的学识,但就算只是做一个志愿者她也要尽自己所能将滋根的这份大爱传递下去

无法忘怀的感动

提及这十余年来作为滋根志愿者在工作中所发生的事情、所接触到的滋根人,杨胜英满脸的感动:“滋根的杨贵平老师和利碧琳老师对我就像是母亲对待女儿一样,对我们毛坪妇女、儿童都非常的关心,每一次见到两位老师都觉得很亲切。

 有一次利老师从美国打电话给我,当时我们这边是下午4点钟,利老师那边是半夜。利老师说她半夜醒来睡不着想我们了,打个电话过来问问大家过得好不好、开不开心,村子里的妇女们在中心开展的活动是否都还顺利。当时听她说完,我的眼泪情不自禁地就掉了下来。我们这边下午4点,美国那边可是凌晨啊,电话那头是利老师、滋根人对我们毛坪妇女的挂念和关心,那份感动和触动让我至今都无法忘怀

妇女中心遭遇百年不遇的洪灾

2015年5月27日,村子遇到了很大的洪涝灾害,据说是雷山县百年不遇的气象灾害,妇女中心一楼被洪水冲了,板凳、桌子、木墙等全部被损坏,地基也有一定程度的损坏。我和我丈夫还有中心的妇女没日没夜的去收拾,去修缮。当时我们真的非常着急,丢下了农活,用担子一担一担地挑着淤积在室内的沙土,几个人连续一个多星期起早贪黑地收拾。当时没有想其他的东西,唯一想的就是尽快把中心恢复到它原来的样子。妇女中心是滋根筹款捐资建起来的,也是毛坪妇女唯一的集体活动中心,我们一定要让它恢复到原来的样子。”

讲到这,杨胜英停顿了许久,后来才得知当时和她们一起修缮妇女中心的吴窝兄已去世了,那是一个特别支持她做滋根工作也特别热心滋根工作的妇女。

我会继续在毛坪村做滋根的志愿者

杨胜英肯定地说到:“在这十来年协助滋根的工作里,只要滋根需要我,我都会尽力的做。因为滋根做的事情都是有利于我们贫困农村发展,有利于贫困人民生活的事情

从1989年杨老师第一次到我们毛坪村到现在已有三十年了,这几十年里,滋根在我们毛坪村做了很多的爱心项目。从资助女童到资助大学生,从举办妇女夜校扫盲到修建妇女中心,从普及生理期卫生安全到帮助村里完善垃圾处理措施……这三十年来滋根在毛坪做的项目我都已数不过来了。

毛坪也因为滋根的到来发生了很多的变化:妇女上了夜校会写自己的名字了,会用普通话和外面来的人沟通交流了;听了生理期卫生安全课堂知道如何预防生理期疾病了;听了卫生宣讲课堂,村民知道垃圾分类了;家长知道让孩子接受教育可以改变孩子的命运了;组建了妇女刺绣小组,妇女有自己的收入来源了,可以不用出去打工了,也在传统的“重男轻女”家庭里有话语权了;女童的上学率提高了,大学生也多了……我们毛坪这近30年来因滋根的到来,从个人的思想到村子的容貌上都有了翻天覆地的变化。”

滋根从最先的女童资助项目开始,30年一路下来支持的项目涉及学校教育、成人教育、医疗卫生及环境保护、文化传承等领域,无不渗透着生态文明、可持续发展的理念,影响着毛坪,滋润着毛坪。这30年来毛坪各方面都有了改变,有的细微点滴,也有的翻天覆地,每一个改变,都深深地印在杨胜英的脑海里。

访问的最后杨胜英感慨道:“一转眼,滋根都30周年了,祝滋根往后越来越好。这十一年来,我是无比快乐的,我会继续在毛坪村做滋根的志愿者。”

我在杨胜英含满泪花的眼睛里好像看到了:三十年前滋根发起人杨贵平老师一行人漂洋过海翻山越岭来到毛坪村的身影;看到了30年前毛坪大山中偷望着学校却因贫穷、因“重男轻女”传统思想无法和男孩一样在课堂拿起书本吟诵的女孩子;看到了30年来像杨胜英一样心怀公益不忘初心默默付出的志愿者,共同支持着中国偏远贫困农村的发展。

杨胜英将这份执着持续了十一年,我知道她一定还会继续下去。

[1]杨晓敏,贵州雷山毛坪人,是滋根资助的女童,现在参与大学生助学金项目,并成为滋根的志愿者,目前就读于黔南民族师范学院。本文由杨晓敏和她的哥哥采访、杨晓敏整理完成。

[2]2003年10月,滋根在贵州雷山方祥乡毛坪村支持建立了妇女中心,由留村的妇女自己监管妇女中心的各种活动和发展,为妇女和村民提供了跟好的学习交流环境。建立后在利碧琳老师及其他老师的帮助下开始发展了毛坪妇女手工刺绣项目,收入一半分到妇女手中,一半留在中心支持妇女开展公共活动。通过这样的方式,当地的妇女不但解决了生活上的困难,更重要的是找回自信和价值。受到教育大大促进男女平等,以前妇女在村里和家庭没有说话的余地,现在也能平等参与乡村事务,在家庭里面也更有平等的地位。

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