Dictated by Ms. Shao Peizhen and interviewed by Pat Kwei-Ping Yang
I was originally a table tennis player and a coach in China. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Huang Rubin after coming to the United States. Mr. Huang was a real estate developer in New York and established the Huang Rubin Foundation with his life savings. The foundation was registered in New York in 1999 and its purpose was to provide education to children in underdeveloped rural areas of China, as Mr. Huang believed that education played a crucial role. Mr. Huang had great feelings for China because during the Second Sino-Japanese War, he was hired as an English teacher at Zhongshan Middle School when Sun Zhognshan’s son Sun Ke was the principal in Guangzhou. He later returned to the United States to study and was not able to go back to China after the diplomatic relations break-up between China and the United States. Therefore he had this wish in his life to donate 90% of his savings from life-long hard working.
Mr. Huang was very thrifty. He normally preferred cooking by himself rather than eating out. After the meal, he would use the hot water to rinse the bowl and drank it, leaving no waste. He seldom bought any clothes during the thirteen years since I knew him. I often joked with him and said, “I don’t believe you will leave the property to donate.” I remember very well about the day I accompanied him to the law firm at the World Trade Center back in 1999. The building was very big and it was a long walk for Mr. Huang, a 83-year-old man with a cane. On that day we signed the agreement. I did not manage the actual operation of the Huang Rubin Foundation until Mr. Huang passed away on February 5, 2000, and the focus was on rural education.
I was born in Shanghai in 1949 and was well educated. I felt very fortunate as the education I received while growing up in China was to serve the people. Although not as wealthy as it is now, people back then were very pure and honest, helping, trusting and loving each other. I was also fortunate to meet Mr. Dong Xulin, husband of Ms. Pat Kwei Ping Yang, as well as some other patriotic people from United Nations who participated in the movement to defend the Diaoyu Islands. As proposed by them, I started to get in contact with a group of selfless and dedicated people at Zigen Foundation and later came into contact with Ms. Yang. Ms. Yang received good education with her own education philosophy – started from the fundamental financial aid in rural education and then slowly escalated to today’s focus on rural teacher training and development. Similarly, our Huang Rubin Foundation also gradually switched our focus from one-on-one grant to the whole ecosystem of education and development. This has been a good collaboration and I personally have learned and improved a lot.
In 2003, we went to Leishan in Guizhou Province. We were impressed by the achievements of Zigen’s work at first sight. There was a pure and heart warm feeling when we got in touch with the local staff. Fifteen years has passed by. When I arrived in Leishan, my first impression was the beautiful landscape with rivers and mountains. We climbed the mountain from Kaili and stayed in a village in Leishan for one night. Local people were very nice to us.
Later I went to Mount Huaguo in Qinglong, Hebei Province and was equally impressed. Zigen was deeply rooted in the local community and well blended in the education in Qinglong. I also visited the Dasendian and Mazhangzi primary schools. A school as small as Mazhangzi Primary School was managed to avoid the merge due to Zigen’s efforts and huge influence. The campus was very clean, and it also developed a school newspaper, with many more development opportunities.
As to Huang Rubin Foundation, we were very diligent in managing his property and tried our best to make full use of the precious funding. Every year we donate to Zigen focusing on Green Eco Schools and teacher training, in education which is truly needed while hoping to support Ms. Yang to fulfill her desire for so many years. What we could help is only the donation, and the execution still relies on local staff of Zigen, whom I admire very much. They are all well educated and devote themselves to rural education with a modest salary. It is not easy at all, and I am very grateful for their contribution.
Very delighted to see that education in poor rural areas has improved a lot and getting better. Huang Rubin is not a big consortium though I believe the contribution is meaningful. I will do my best to manage the foundation, donate more money and keep the good work we have been doing.
Translated by Ruby Zhao, working and living in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. She has been a volunteer for Zigen since 2010.