1. We need funds to cover
the cost of applying for charity status officially in China to comply with the
new Foreign NGO law in China. We also need expertise concerning our application
to the government. We will have to employ a Chinese accountant to handle our
books using Chinese methods and bear the cost of an audit of our financials
2. We would like to serve more students in more schools. Recruiting new sponsors and donors will be a top goal. We also need trustworthy volunteers to supervise these new programs in their areas.
3. We need 20 new college scholarship sponsors, who will give $650 a year to support a student in college. We need to develop an online scholarship application so students can apply online for themselves.
4. We need more volunteers to help us with sponsorships, special talents, and fundraising. We especially need those who will take on administration leadership.
5. We need to maintain a Chinese language WeChat page and website that can be seen in China. Content development, including translation, are challenges this year.
Blessing Hands is dedicated to
helping and nurturing students by improving access to educational
opportunities. Through our network of volunteers, we presently serve students
from primary to college. We are encouraging these students to fulfill their
dreams and hope for the future. We also have branched out into wheelchair gifts,
libraries, donating computers, and providing school supplies to Yao minority
Blessing Hands receives support from individual sponsors around the world. We are setting an example of charity without expecting profit or rewards in return. Our goal is to spread blessings by empowering people. We encourage our students to become blessing hands and pass on the friendship and encouragement they have received. In 2013, our first college graduates began to give back to Blessing Hands of their own free will. Our students began to become blessing hands themselves.
We are thrilled to see the Chinese themselves take up our projects and run with them. They are learning about charities and teaching others. A Chinese assistant principal arranged for her school, friends and relatives to give shoes, coats, and other items to poor Yao primary students in Du'an County. She also set up a sister school relationship between her prosperous city primary school and a rural Yao minority primary school. A Chinese doctor arranged for her colleagues to hold a dental clinic in an under served rural area of Du'an County.
We have successfully trademarked our name “Blessing Hands” and our logo. That has given us an opportunity to see just how unique our vision, name, and passion is. No other organization carried our name before us, and no other charity has used the Chinese word “fu” to convey blessings, prosperity, and hope to students. We are indeed blessed in every way as we bless others.
Our children come from rural families that make a subsistence living. Many are orphans living with grandparents or members of single parent families. Their families, heavy with the needs of the older generation, often see them as potential immediate wage earners while they dream of being teachers, doctors, and journalists. I was teaching in a summer English camp when I came face to face with the poor rural students of China. I could see a chance to make a difference in lives with just an inexpensive donation for a child's tuition. I was inspired by their determination to go to school and achieve to pull their families out of poverty. Why not help them since they were so willing to help themselves and so grateful for the chance to go to school.
Over the past 10 years I have seen over 1000 students raised out of poverty. Over a hundred of them have gone to college and realized their dreams. Along the way, I have met such wonderful students as Lan Hua.
Hua is from a Yao minority family. Her mother and father are gone, but she still lives by the exhortations of her father to study and learn. When I heard about her, she was in great distress because she was unable to afford her second year of college. Her beloved teacher confirmed her story and added that she would come barefoot to primary school but would stay outside to listen since she could not afford the tuition that had to be paid back then.
I asked Hua to let me make a movie of her explaining her need for a sponsor to help her with her tuition. I had to take the movie three times, but she never did stop crying all the way through. The final movie made out in the sunlight turned out best, and I knew in my spirit that somehow we would find a sponsor for Hua. I told her that God loved her and hugged her. With those words, I knew that God would do something about Hua.
I put her video on our Youku.com channel and was surprised the next day when one of our sponsors contacted me to sponsor her without me even putting the video link in our newsletter. Hua soon had her scholarship for five more years of college. She plans to be a doctor.
Now let me tell you the rest of Hua's story. After she got help, Hua was so grateful that she asked what she could do to help us. She got busy on our qq.com internet group and talked to all the scholarship students online. She made sure they knew about our scholarship meal. This was a great help, since I needed someone to encourage them to come. Because of her efforts more students came than ever had before. Later, she became a co-administrator on the qq.com group. She soon had the group in order with people blocked who were not our students. She is our cheerleader spreading news and being a blessing. I enjoy helping those who will help themselves and then turn to help others. It is such a joy to give to those who need it.
We presently serve the educational needs of students in four Chinese provinces. We are also doing water purification projects in Du'an and Yangshuo Counties in Guangxi Province and Anlong County in Guizhou Province. We give tuition help in Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces for high school and school aid for primary students. We especially like to help minority students from the Miao, Tibetan, Buyi, and Yao people. Our project in Manila, Philippines helps children in small indigenous churches.
In 2016 a foreign NGO law was
passed in China that will require us to register officially with the Chinese
government, submit our plans and budget for approval, use Chinese accounting
and audit methods, and register with the Security Bureau. This is going to add
to our expenses and workload and may prove very difficult.
Blessing Hands’ ultimate goal is to encourage charities and volunteerism in China. Hong Kong has the British example of community service and charities. In Mainland China, however, people wonder if charities are a scam or trying to influence China toward Western ideas. Chamber of Commerce organizations and Lions’ Clubs exist in large Chinese cities, but most charitable efforts are done by the government through their own approved channels. People are suspicious of government charity efforts also.
Our goal is to influence the Chinese themselves to become informal volunteers and givers in their communities and schools. By requiring our older students to do 3 hours of volunteer service a semester, we open the idea that they can help society not just their own families. We want our students to be leaven to get the idea of the blessings of giving out into the group think. The earthquake in Eastern China, opened China’s eyes to helping others. The national news made everyone aware and shook people out of their insular lives.
Every school and child we touch sees our open blessing hands coming from a sponsor. They begin to want to also give and help. Chinese teachers, scholars, government officials and businessmen are catching the idea of charity and giving to their own poor. I hear them say that if a foreigner can come all this way to help their children, surely they can step up and help also.
Our immediate goal is to improve the lives of Chinese students and keep them in school. Our larger goal is to grow our own charitable students who can take loving and caring for others wherever they go for the rest of their lives. We want them not just to become rich and prosperous, but to become kind and loving to those who are suffering as they once suffered. Even now, most thank you letters we get will say they want to do what we are doing someday. They say they want to spread love and concern like we do. They are very grateful.
In the next 3 to 5 years we hope to add more Chinese volunteer administrators who will help from 12 to 30 primary children, who are in desperate need. We want these administrators to interact with the students, not just give them sponsorship money. These children will often be handicapped or from minority remote groups. We want the Chinese themselves to take the initiative to help they own poor. We want to attract more Chinese sponsors and volunteers both overseas and within China that can communicate easily with their students and model charity in action. We want to encourage the establishment of more Chinese charities doing what we do. People helping people one at a time can change the mindset of China to one of service. They can do a much better job of reaching out to their own communities in their own languages. Many students will have their dreams fulfilled and begin to dream different dreams of giving and loving the poor. It will make such a difference in China when philanthropists are looked up to instead of millionaires.
How will Blessing Hands encourage
volunteerism, giving, and charities in China? According to the 2016 foreign NGO
law, Blessing Hands will have to officially register in China and maintain a
representative there. One of our board members who lives in Beijing is willing
to assume that responsibility. We will have to register with the Security
Department and submit our plans and budget to them before we start our program
We will model how a charity conducts itself with transparency and inspiration. Our best opportunity to do this is through the visiting scholars who come to our local university. We make an effort to plan activities with them, like teaching them to cook American food, teaching them to drive, taking them to charity yard sales, and asking them to volunteer with Blessing Hands activities while they are in the USA. They see how our charity works with other charities to sponsor our local Arts and Eats Festival to raise money for local charities. We invite them to help at our table at the Chinese New Year Celebration and during “Just Say Boo” to drugs, a Halloween event in our town.
These visiting scholars have consistently caught the vision of helping their own poor students back in China. Without us even asking them, they begin to want to travel with us during our summer projects and select children in their areas for Blessing Hands to assist. They jump into the joys of friendship with foreigners, giving and volunteering easily.
In the coming years we need to expect the high school students, not just the college students, to also volunteer to help others. They could volunteer during holidays and summertime. Summer camps are life changing events that would accomplish this naturally. We will need more volunteers to be willing to visit with those students and inspire them with stories and activities that emphasize giving rather than receiving. It is not good enough to expect administrators to inspire the students. We need Blessing Hands representatives and summer volunteers to be willing to visit families and schools to interact with students. Our 2013 Summer English camp inspired many of our Yangshuo students and the foreign volunteers as well. We should purpose to have many more of these camps. Recruiting US volunteers would also enrich the camps. Foreign volunteers also are generous to choose a student to sponsor in college when they have interacted with them for a week and seen their need
Our board has four
Chinese members willing to help China. One joins our projects each summer.
These board members have resources in friendship circles, family connections,
or financial blessings that make them valuable resources for our students and
activities. Our staff members and volunteers in China also have extensive
friendship and relative circles that are interested in helping their own poor
rural students. Our staff uses their connections to introduce us to new
volunteers and Chinese charities. Our board members, staff, and volunteers are
proud of what we are doing and set an example of charity for others.
We have good Chinese government relations especially in Yangshuo, since our city, Morehead, KY, is the Sister City of Yangshuo. We join in joint projects with Morehead Sister Cities in Yangshuo, especially in art. We often have exchanges between the two sister cities including mayors and education officials. We have spent more than $238,000 over ten years for Yangshuo students and $27,000 on other activities. The head of their foreign office is Gloria Wei, our first administrator in Yangshuo in 2005. She has passed her Blessing Hands responsibilities to others, but still helps our students all she can. The party secretary in Yangshuo was the translator for our first Sister Cities English camp in 2005. He encourages Blessing Hands projects in Yangshuo.
Our visiting scholar friends are always excited to see us again when we come to China and are willing to help us with projects and initiatives. They sometimes collect books, used clothes, and school supplies for us to take into Yao minority areas. Some of them help us with driving or other transportation. Our own alumni also want to help and get involved. They are proud to be associated with Blessing Hands and want to be identified with a charity helping their people.
We are doing well financially. We have begun an endowment fund with the Bluegrass Community Foundation in Lexington and presently have over $50,000 invested there. We have also started a Blessing Fund there that can accept stocks and various other unusual donations. We have long time sponsors who are staying with their commitments and expanding their loyalty. One donor has a large farm that is earmarked for our charity when the time is right. As China’s fortunes grow, Chinese donors are opting for giving of themselves rather than buying more luxuries. We see potential for many more Chinese donors worldwide as the internet grows. More Chinese are reaching out to the West through WeChat, qq.com, and other homegrown Chinese websites like Youku.com, the Chinese Youtube.
We have partnerships with other international charities in China, especially Ministro Journeys, which sponsors summer camps, and Community Roots China, which helps our students receive gifts on Children’s Day and Christmas. We plan to develop more relationships with other charities doing some of the same things we do, such as providing computers to schools.
Students, donors, volunteers, donations and staff are entered in our cloud data system called Salesforce. Our staff can access Salesforce to run reports and reach student data, since it is acceptable in China and works in multiple currencies and languages. We are presently developing an online scholarship form that will make applying for a college scholarship much easier. Once they have been accepted for a scholarship, they can update that original form each year including such data as grades, volunteer work, and family information. We will be able to pull that data up to run reports and see the progress of each student toward high school or college graduation. Very few students who get to that level drop out, although some give up their college scholarship to another needy student if they get internships.
Graduation and participation is one of the ways we access the success of our programs. After all we want all of our students to graduate and find a good job that is not planting rice. However, we want more inner growth for our students and success besides just making good grades. We have a qq.com chat group for our college scholarship students where we encourage them to make friends and communicate with us also. It is always busy with remarks and entries. We announce on qq.com when we will have scholarship lunches for them in four cities in Guangxi Province. We can feel proud when students travel long distances (We help them with transportation.) to stand up at those lunches and give a report of their volunteer service and accomplishments. We know we are doing well when they are doing well.
Our younger high school students also communicate with us on qq.com, and hopefully, they will join our WeChat when it is ready. Through the internet, we try to answer their questions and chat with them. They like to practice their English. They send thank you letters and emails to their sponsors. This feedback lets us know how students are doing and reassures sponsors concerning their students.
We answer our sponsors with a personal email, letter, or note when donations are received. Our newsletter keeps everyone informed about projects, needs, and summer activities. The IRS 990 form helps us evaluate our status each year. We of course report to our donors concerning their tax deductions each January.
Our budget is planned for geographic areas and special project needs annually. The board votes on the tentative budget each June. It is implemented with the start of schools and colleges in September. In June and July, we travel to China. That is a time to evaluate old programs and add new ones. We go in person to see administrators, students and schools. We have a policy to never dropping a student’s support without cause and investigation. Summer travel helps us we renew relationship with staff, volunteers and students. China is changing so much so quickly that personal trips are very important to the integrity of our programs.
We are very satisfied with our
progress over eleven years. We have helped over 1400 students stay in school or
graduate. Our first year’s donations came to $55,061 in 2006. Our latest year
showed $130,350 in donations. We have gradually grown through the years and
expanded our programs to four provinces in China and the Philippines. Our board
attendance has been consistently 96% with board members volunteering and
donating with enthusiasm. We have not lost many administrators or volunteers in
China and very few donors. One administrator got married, however, and moved to
Most of all we are seeing increased interest by Chinese and US citizens in participating as volunteers and donors in our programs. We had so many Chinese and US volunteers at our summer camp that they outnumbered the campers. We can see our students rising up to fulfill our dreams of being blessing hands to others. Donors and interested Chinese want to join our summer programs to see what we are doing and learn from us how to start their own programs. We can see our goal of modeling good charity practices making a difference. We get interviewed by Chinese and US journalists, who want to advertise our charity and its mission.
We have found one program that did not work. We set up sister schools between Chinese schools and US Rowan County schools. We used an art grant to initiate pen pal letters between our students and students in Yangshuo, China. We asked students to send art to their sister school. The art part worked fine, and we had several art shows and events within the program, but the pen pal part did not. Busy Chinese teachers did not have time to encourage letters between students. Computers use is not encouraged by Chinese teachers for their students. Paper letters would arrive addressed to Susan from Xiaoping or for Huali from Sarah without last names or any way to identify the students, so return letters could be sent. We finally gave up the effort to establish pen pals.
Another interesting thing that emerged was government officials who wanted to claim influence and prestige by association with us to advance their careers. Certain schools would be selected for us to interact with because they were schools the official was responsible for. We go through every open door, but we are really pleased when we find a teacher or official who is genuinely concerned for students and schools. We are quick to partner with them. Only once have we had to discontinue a school because a new principal vetoed the program.
Being a foreign NGO in China has it challenges. There are language, cultural, financial, and legal differences. There is a new NGO law being implemented in China that would require foreign NGOs to partner with Chinese security bureau units. We hope to officially register and have good government relations. We just hope that such a partnership would not take our self-government away. We want Chinese citizens to become the blessing hands behind Blessing Hands.
China itself is a challenging country because of the difference in political educational, language, and philosophical systems. For example, certain sites are blocked in China such as our website, photo page, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. We have to use duplicate Chinese services to reach our Chinese audiences. We could not communicate at all without machine translations, Skype, translation volunteers, and local administrators.
With the addition of a Chinese board member who does not know English, we have started to translate minutes and agendas into Chinese and have virtual board meetings through OOVOO.
Betty Cutts, our Founder and Director, has always been a volunteer interested in children and nations. Her first love is teaching. She has a B.S and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Kindergarten teaching was her career before she became a stay-at-home mother and community volunteer. She has been a Cub Scout leader, Meals on Wheels volunteer, a CASA (court appointed special advocate for abused children), a hospital pink lady volunteer, a nursing home Bible teacher, a Sunday school teacher, a summer English camp teacher in China, and chairperson of the Yangshuo Committee of Morehead Sister Cities. She has been the treasurer of Morehead Sister Cities for 10 years.
She is the mother of two adult sons, grandmother of two, and wife of David Cutts, a retired college physics teacher. She is a world traveler having visited Haiti, Honduras, Europe, China, the Middle East, Taiwan, India, and Russia. She is presently 70 with much experience with people and cultures.
Visiting scholars and students from China find her welcoming and willing to teach them to drive or take them to yard sales. She teaches them English conversation and Bible classes through her church. She recruits them as volunteers to help Blessing Hands with translation, art, or administration in China.
Betty has served as our volunteer director since 2005 and does our bookkeeping, social media outreach, donors & sponsorship records, and staff. Betty initiated the copyright of our logo and name, began our newsletter and blog, stimulates grant requests, speaks at churches, schools, and organizations about Blessing Hands and does other public relations outreaches. She has been quick to donate herself and initiated our Blessing Hands Endowment Fund at the Bluegrass Community Foundation.
Our board makes budget decisions, staff employment agreements, and policy decisions. We need no government licenses or membership details. Our director reports directly to the board five times a year in board meetings. We do not have any full time employees to make policies for or to evaluate. We are just thankful for our volunteers, who are blessing hands to many.
We do need a management succession plan to replace our director at some future point. We would like to start with a co-director, who can ease into the director's job when needed. We are looking for such a person to replace our director in the future. This person needs to speak Chinese and understand the culture of China well. We would hope that they would travel with our summer team and get to know the volunteer directors that are so key for each area. Replacing a volunteer director with a professional dedicated to our mission is quite a challenge for the future. Our charity might have to have more scale before we could afford to pay such a person.
Yangshuo County, Guangxi Province was the first area where we
helped students in 2005. We have a student sponsorship program there involving
school aid for younger children and tuition grants for high school students. We
have sponsored over 435 primary school, middle school, high school and college
students in the Yangshuo area in 11 years. We expect to have students enrolled
in 35 schools in the fall 2016. We have helped 67 Yangshuo students with
college scholarships in the 11 years we have been serving there. We expect to
give 5 more college scholarships in the fall of 2016.
$237,985 over 10 years has been given for educational aid and college scholarships. $3,216 has been spent on 7 water purifiers for primary schools. $27,344 has been spent on special sponsorships, medical help, and special summer projects like art events, photography workshops, a summer camp, and clinics. $15,023 is our budget amount for 2016-2017 in Yangshuo.
“I write to you today not only to tell you this thing, but also to give thanks for helping me these years. The help is not just the money, but the warmth. Every time I think that there is someone who cares for me at a distance, it means so much to me. I believe even many years later, and no matter how I live a life, I will remember this warmth forever. But the most words I want to say is thank you for treating me as a special one. In the ocean of crowds, you chose me to help, and we have developed a relationship for 10 years. I think it's the most amazing thing, and I cherish it so much.”
We expect our Qinzhou students to study hard and graduate from high school with scores high enough to go on to college or vocational schools. We expect them to honor the principles of Blessing hands by serving others and being outstanding students both at home and in their schools. They will stay in school and give their families hope for a better future for the whole family. When our administrators visit them each time, we instill in them the principles of love, sharing, and volunteering.
We know that 701 Qinzhou students, who could not afford to go to high school, have been helped to finish and go on to college. We have funded 160 high school students each year for 9 years. Some were helped for all 3 years and some joined after their second or third year of high school. We have had tuition gatherings for each school each year in order to meet with students and give them small gifts. We also have hosted parties for them when our group visits in July.
We have seen them grow and take on the values of Blessing Hands. They report helping others and wanting to do what we are doing when they grow up. They quickly catch the idea that they are loved and should love others in our big happy family. 52 students from the Qinzhou area have gone on to college and none have dropped out of college. Only about 4 have dropped out of high school without graduating. Several gave up their high school tuition support when their families became more prosperous, but they still graduated.
We know that the Qinzhou program is working by the gratitude of the families and students, college entrance test scores, and the attitude of our volunteer teachers who monitor the students. We can access their grades and scores to confirm their scholarship. The students often write to us and share how proud they are to be Blessing Hands students and their desire to help others like we do. Being affiliated with a foreign charity is a source of pride for them. One farm mother came to our tuition gathering to personally thank us for the difference our tuition grants had made in the life of her family.
Pan Yanlin is an orphan but her outgoing attitude shows through. She often writes to us about her life, friends and attitudes. She will graduate this year. I am including part of a recent letter from her. She has caught the idea of being a blessing hand to others well.
”Today, I went to the hospital to do some social work. I helped the people who are the first time to come here. They don't know where they should go and what should they do before healing. They said I'm so friendly and perfect. They said, ‘So thank you very much; What a great girl!’ I am so happy too that I can help others who need help. I enjoy helping. Doing something simple for others is my pleasure.”
Blessing Hands began installing water purifiers in 2010. We
helped 2 water purifier charities with translations of their instructions.
These water purifiers are portable and weigh only 15- 20 pounds. They are
designed to be used in rural areas with little electricity, since they run on
marine batteries. We have provided clean water to 15 schools in Yangshuo,
Du’an and Anlong Counties in Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces of the China in
five years’ time. We estimate that we have helped over a 1,000 students have
clean water and be safe from water borne diseases. When they use cisterns,
they especially need purifiers. Two teams, one from a construction company in
China and one from a USA school, have worked together on the purifier and
their holding tanks. The total we have spent is $21,490. We also hope to
facilitate the making of water purifiers economically in China.
When 5 more purifiers are installed in 2015 in Yangshuo, we estimate over 1000 students will have access to clean water. There are people coming to see how the purifiers work and help install them. Plans for the manufacture of a Chinese made purifier will take a great leap with developers meeting the US and Chinese teams that are experienced in installing the purifiers. The developers will be able to see the type of rural schools they need to design purifiers for and the kind of students they will serve. They will see the kind of tanks and piping that is typically available in small towns and know better what to include in their purifier kits.
The US team does other things like sports, teaching and sponsorships while they are in the schools, giving a view of Americans being useful to Chinese. Students learn new songs, games, and English words. The US team was so moved in 2013 with the needs of the schools, that they requested to come again and again even after their retirements.
Water purifiers make a difference in the lives and health of the primary schools. Being portable and easy to move, they can be installed and reinstalled in many places and times. Right now the Du’an schools are being renovated and the water purifiers will be reinstalled in better infrastructure. The schools have vested ownership and maintain them with the help of the Health Department. The water purifier team from the USA worked with the Chinese water purifier team in an atmosphere of trust and respect. The Chinese team is self-starting now with expectations of installing many more purifiers themselves.
We have plans to produce water purifiers in China itself. They will be less expensive made with Chinese parts and labor. With the cooperation of New Life International, which has the patent, we hope to expand our program to many more rural schools and communities. The day will come when pure water will be as important as pure air to the Chinese people.
When we return to schools that have received purifiers, we notice if they are working correctly and being maintained. We ask the principals and students about the use of the purifiers, and see if they are using them correctly. In this way we have found problems that need corrections. Some students complained of the chlorine smell and taste of the water, so we are hoping the new design of the China made purifiers will include some filtration of the final product to take out the chlorine aftertaste. We also found some schools were under new construction and water purifiers were being reserved until construction was completed. During our summer trip, we intend to survey the Yangshuo water purifiers installed last summer to see if they are being successfully used. The water team will retrain school personnel if problems are found.
Our administrator in Anlong, Huali Luo, reports that the schools principals there that received water purifiers in their schools are using them as intending and students are receiving clean water. Many more schools want purifiers installed in their schools. We receive pictures of the students taking drinks of water from the faucets for the first time with big smiles on their faces. This summer we will be able to evaluate the water purifiers installed last year in Yangshuo. The water purifiers in Du’an will also be checked for progress this summer. Since we are encouraging making water purifiers in China, it is most important to make sure that they are being used and appreciated before we embark on a manufacturing process.
Du’an Special Education School serves 248 students in
14 classrooms serving 1st through 9th graders.
Presently, there is no policy for training for handicapped students after 9th
grade. They serve deaf, blind, lame, mentally challenged and autistic
children. We have supplied desktop computers for their classrooms. These
Windows equipped computers need to have special software for the blind and
virus software. Our goal is occupational therapy for these fragile students,
so they can be computer literate and employed in the future. We hope to
include teacher computer training and partner with NetSpring, a green NGO
that makes refurbished computers available to schools with contracts to
replace them in three years. The school will provide internet wireless access
to aid in this vocational training.
Student computer use is viewed with suspicion in China for fear playing games will distract their studies for the college entrance exam. Handicapped students are not going to apply for college, so computer access would be relaxed for them. When these students start to have success on an equal footing with other computer literate Chinese students, it will not matter if they are blind or deaf. The internet does not know these things. They can develop skills that will serve them all their lives vocationally and personally. We also want to see teachers begin to use computers to teach their students and help them reach the resources available online that would be impossible for their small school to provide. Our goal is for teachers and students to learn together and become relaxed in their access to them. If half of the students and all the teachers become computer literate, we will count that success. Attention deficit disorder is aided by computer games that improve attention.
If we can secure a grant to provide vocational training for this handicapped school, it will open new doors for handicapped students in that area. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Just because they are blind, deaf or lame does not mean that they can’t use a computer. Computers can be the key to a future job for them. The Du’an school is new and has all kinds of teaching aids, but no one seemed to think of the value of occupational therapy or computer training before we visited the school and suggested they needed to train their students for future work. We have a contract worker who enters data for us online from her wheelchair. Without her English and computer skills, we would have to hire a much more expensive American worker, who might not know Chinese culture. We would like to see occupational therapy take its place along with academic subjects in their curriculum. It will open up communication with the outside world to students who are hidden away and treated as “special.”
We have not implemented this program yet, but we will expect to measure it success by the proficiency of the students in computer ability. We will also look at how comfortable teachers are with the computers and their integration into the classroom routine. We hope to have a college group studying occupational therapy spend some time in the school in the future teaching skills to both teachers and students. They would model what occupational therapy is all about and introduce new concepts to the teachers. This depends on cooperation with the University of Louisville and would be a second phase of our grant process. They could evaluate the progress of the students in computer skills at the beginning of their training and at the end of the extended workshop.
We are helping small groups of needy primary students in six areas in China. Three of the programs serve the minority groups of Buyi, Yao, and Miao. Each of the students are selected by principals, education officials or community volunteers, who know the needs of the families. There are 203 children in these 6 programs. The volunteers who oversee these programs are college and high school teachers, a doctor, and education department employees. For most of them we provide school aid of $145 a semester, but some students get partial support of $42 a semester. School aid covers books, clothes, and school supplies. Full support also pays for their lunches. We seek out sponsors for them that will follow their progress and be interested in their lives. The sponsors get thank you letters, pictures of their children and their family information. Sponsors are welcome to visit their children or write to them through their schools. We take them small gifts during summer visits.
In the short term Blessing Hands is relieving families of economic stress and providing education opportunities others expect routinely. Our students are often from single parent families or live with their grandparents. Some of them are left behind children, whose parents are migrant workers in the cities. Since rural families can have more than one child, most families are stretched economically. Our children are often handicapped in various ways or their families are. Some of them have been spared by our program from being forced out of school early. They are not pampered city children, but used to helping out in the harvest. We want them to feel special and blessed. Having sponsors to communicate with and thank opens them up to the outside world both international and within China. Their teachers know that they are sponsored children and encourage them to make the most of their opportunities. We expect them to begin to dream of a future and feel special.
Education is the door out of poverty. We would expect the changes to most of these poor primary children’s lives to include graduation from primary school and acceptance into middle school. Minority rural students rarely graduate from high school. With the sponsorship feature of our program, we expect some of these students to raise themselves all the way to high school graduation. The volunteers managing these programs are vested in their success and interested to see them grow and mature. Mature sponsors who start this early with sponsorship usually continue their support year after year. Some of these students have disabilities such as deafness that would otherwise limit their lives. With special sponsors interested in their lives, these children will go far toward supporting themselves and inspiring others. Especially those in special education classes will be helped beyond any expectation of their culture. There are no handicapped laws protecting their rights as adults.
We use continued enrolment as one measure of the success of our elementary programs. We want to follow them on up to higher grades and see them graduate. We also count the continued interest and commitments of volunteer administrators as important. If a volunteer administrator grows tired or disinterested, the program will fail. We notice if the thank you letters are genuine and timely. We especially like to get art work decorated letters to pass on to sponsors, who may or may not understand Chinese. If a sponsor drops out, we have to seek to find out if that is our fault or something entirely out of our control. Keeping the same sponsors indicates the health of a project. Most of all we look at the success of the children. Are they healthy? Are they getting acceptable grades? Are they glad to see us when we visit? Are they wearing good clothes or do they need shoes? Personal investment in teaching them they can also be blessing hands is our highest goal.
We were delighted to find sponsors for 2 very special primary children in Wuxuan County in Guangxi Province. A sponsor requested an autistic child to sponsor since his own son was autistic. He had brought his son back to the USA to give him educational advantages not available in China years ago. Now he wanted to reach back and find an autistic child to help in China. That very day, information about an autistic boy needing a sponsor had come in email. I was able to match the two families and got two children, an autistic boy and normal little sister in the same family, sponsored by the father of the USA autistic boy.
In another case a girl was born with a muscle weakening disease and needed a sponsor who would appreciate her special needs. I knew of an American family whose niece was born with the same disease. We were able to match the two families and the Chinese girl got not only school support but medical support up to $1,000. That was welcome relief to that worried family.
We are making a big difference in
the lives of poor rural or minority children in 4 provinces in China. Over 1,300
students have passed through our programs. Many have finished high school and
college. Over ten years we have patiently gathered volunteer administrators and
paid staff that really care about the principles of volunteering and teaching
students to be blessing hands as they give to others the concern and love that
has been given to them. We have sponsored clinics, summer camps and workshops
while encouraging international sponsorships and friendships. We are modeling
transparent charity principals and encouraging Chinese to help others while
they help themselves and their families. The joy of giving has been introduced
to students, sponsors, donors, and volunteers. We are changing lives one by one
Recently we were notified that the Hsing Ming Chang Foundation accepted our grant application for tuition support of 75 high school students in Qinzhou, China. We hope to have a site visit with them this December. We also hope to cooperate more with other charities serving in China such as Community Roots China in Shanghai, and NetSpring. We want to grow and mature so that more students can be served. We now have alumni growing able to help and support Blessing Hands as we once served them. There are many opportunities opening for Blessing Hands.
There are also challenges as there have always been when entering into Mainland China. The exchange rate of the yuan to dollars is always subject to politics and manipulation. Western charities are suspect just because they are nongovernment organizations NGOs. Translation and communication is an ongoing inconvenience. Sometimes it seems that we are wearing gloves when we try to carry out programs and clinics in China. We work through many volunteers and people of good will, who are as diverse as China itself. Cultural differences sometimes leave us wondering how to approach a problem or person with wisdom and equality. Even so, things work out and plans are flexible to allow for inconveniences. Over all we have to say, we have never had so much fun or been quite so challenged as we are in China. Somehow a way always appears, sometimes in a very Chinese way. We learn a lot from each other and are always blessed and blessing others.
We collaborate closely with Sister Cities of Morehead since Yangshuo is the Sister City of Morehead. We have done a joint eyeglass clinic, art shows, sister school matches and exchanges, a sports event, photography workshop, and a Friendship Summer Camp. Our director, Betty Cutts, is the treasurer of Morehead Sister Cities.
The Yangshuo Education Department has been a longtime collaborator. They select students we sponsor and give photos and family information. They provide a venue for our summer camp and photography workshop. We visit schools with their help each time we come to Yangshuo. Our first volunteer director in Yangshuo was an employee of the Education Department. We have installed 3 water purifiers in Yangshuo primary schools and will install five more in 2015. An education official works with our US team to install those purifiers. Education officials have come from Yangshuo to tour their sister schools in Kentucky.
We also cooperate with Community Roots China, a charity that gives children gifts for Children’s Day and Christmas. We supply the names, ages, sizes, and other information so they can deliver gifts efficiently.
We are planning to develop a relationship with NetSpring to provide refurbished computers to schools.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
One of the challenges of
working in China is the dollar in relation to the RMB. We have risen to this
challenge, and this past year the dollar increased in value against the RMB. The
exchange rate sometimes falls into conflict with politics. The US Congress is
always out to punish China for propping up their Yuan to the disadvantage of
the dollar. We have to keep being concerned about how much money we store in
China or leave in US banks.
The banking system in China is still developing and not customer friendly. We are able to check our bank accounts online, but we cannot transfer money in China if we are in the USA. Our trusted administrators in China handle the day to day transfers. Another drawback is that only so much money can be wired to a Chinese account within a year. We have to have several accounts to be efficient. We also know that our accounts are being monitored. That is another consideration when deciding how much funds to wire. One great opportunity is the ease of wiring money into bank accounts within China. They do not use checks there but bank cards. We can easily send college scholarship money directly into accounts of students from a cell phone. Chinese sponsors can send us large contributions at the push of a button with no delay.
We have started an endowment fund with the Bluegrass Community Foundation. We are pleased about the possibility of large stock gifts or cash donations being sent into this endowment. Planning for the future is important to us. We want Blessing Hands to have a stable foundation that will carry us forward through changes in leadership or governments. We also have a regular Blessing Fund with BCF that can receive stock donations, land, or other gifts that are not cash. It saves us some paperwork and reports to the IRS.
Accounting and 990 IRS reports are hard work. We need a dedicated accountant, who can file the 990 form for us each year and keep our books voluntarily. One of our board members faithfully does it now. Salesforce is working well for us to track donors, students, volunteers, and schools. We want to be transparent with our books unlike most state charities in China. We put our 990 on our website. Our policy is to send a personal thank you email, letter, or card to each donor as well as the year end IRS donation letters.
There is a new foreign NGO law in China that will take effect January, 2017. Preparing to register in China will involve a lot of paperwork and result in a legal bank account in our own name. However, we will have to report to the Security Bureau our program plans, budget, and staffing before we can carry out our programs. It remains to be seen what effect this new law will have on our ongoing mission.
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499 East High Street, Lexington, KY 40507