Can You Say “Santa Claus”? Part 1

This week I went with a group from the American Women’s Club of Shanghai to Nanxun, a 2nd tier city in China with a lot of migrant workers, for a day of philanthropy with the Lion’s Club of China.

The Lion’s Club was brought to China in 2005 by Deng Xiao Ping’s son, who learned about it while he was in the West. The Lion’s Club in China has an even bigger uphill battle getting members and raising funds than their American counterparts because there is not a culture of philanthropy in China. Recent history has helped to developed a mindset that you only help those you know, such as family or close friends. To the Chinese, it makes no sense to help a random person.  If there is no personal benefit from the aid given, for instance, their child has a better chance of getting in to college, then they really don’t understand the point. There is no legal way to be a non-profit organization in China.

Some of the local Lion's Club. The President is on the far left and the past president is next to him.

Some of the local Lion’s Club. The President is on the far left and the past president is next to him.

The LC in China is mostly made up of people who have become fairly successful. All of the money the club has comes from the members, and there is no outside fundraising. This club collects about 50,000rmb ($7000USD) per year. All of the club money goes to their projects. If they have a dinner, they pay for it out of their own pockets.

This club is slowly adding members. Invitees are becoming less suspicious now than they were at the beginning. It was a common perception that the club was a pyramid scheme. One member originally thought the club was about line dancing!

Handing out food to the needy isn’t their only function. An important part of their philosophy is that they don’t want members just for their money, but for their time as well. They have ongoing relationships with the children and families they help and spend time every month taking them on trips, helping them out and ensuring that they are not at risk. They also do environmental projects.

I asked the members how they were different than the general population: they had after all, decided to donate their time and money for no other reason than to help people. They said that many of them had been to the West and so were influenced by what they saw. They also said that after achieving a measure of prosperity in their life, they found they needed more than just success. Universally, they said the experience was very meaningful.

 

The first of many glasses of tea we were given that day.

The first of many glasses of tea we were given that day.

After drinking our tea, we headed out to visit the girl to whom we were making donations of oil and rice, etc. and some Christmas presents.

Here’s what we saw on our way, in the bus:

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As you can see, there are some parts of town that are more affluent than others. (Our guide from AWCS actually lives here part time in a 3 bedroom house for 1500rmb/mo ($240USD–being outside of Shanghai really brings the rents down!))

Because the girl lived very close to the migrant school we would be visiting in the afternoon, we got a peek at the very curious children we would be seeing.

Because the girl lived very close to the migrant school we would be visiting in the afternoon, we got a peek at the very curious children we would be seeing–as did they at us!

These little girls were very excited to see laowai (foreigners).

These little girls were very excited to see laowai (foreigners).

This food stand across from the school was busy all day long.

This food stand across from the school was busy all day long.

The following are pictures taken on the walk to the little girl’s house:

The housing quickly deteriated. This was the worst that we saw.

The housing quickly deteriorated. This was the worst that we saw.

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Rice field after harvest

Rice field after harvest

The garden's were large and incredibly healthy looking.

The garden’s were large and incredibly healthy looking.

Unfortunately there was this trash dump right next to the gardens

Unfortunately there was this trash dump right next to them.

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Someone in the neighborhood was also getting the Christmas spirit!

Someone in the neighborhood was also getting the Christmas spirit!

The girl we were going to visit has a very difficult home life. About 8 years ago, the father became mentally ill. We think he probably is schizophrenic. Because he is uncontrollable, he is kept in a dark locked room. They don’t have the financial means for him to go to a hospital. When he became ill, the mother left to find better prospects elsewhere. The little girl is being raised by her grandparents and great grandparents. The concern is what might happen to her if everyone dies. The grandparents only make between $100-160 USD/month to take care of 5 people.

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The little girl's family home that has been passed down for several generations.

The little girl’s family home that has been passed down for several generations.

Waiting for her to arrive from school

Waiting for her to arrive from school in their front courtyard.

We couldn't help wondering which room the father was locked in. This one perhaps?

We couldn’t help wondering which room the father was locked in. This one perhaps?
After a few minutes of waiting, one of the neighbor ladies came to check out the laowai in the Santa hats.

After a few minutes of waiting, one of the neighbor ladies came to check out the laowai in the Santa hats.

Soon, a lot more neighbors came to see what was up.

Soon, a lot more ladies in their aprons came to see what was up.

While we waited we took a group shot.

While we waited, we took a group shot.

Here she is! She very politely went around the group and shook everyone's hand and said "Nice to meet you" in English.

Here she is! She very politely went around the group and shook everyone’s hand and said “Nice to meet you” in English.

One of the rooms in her house.

One of the rooms in her house.

Giving her her presents

Giving out her presents

 

We also gave her the Chinese version of hackey sack--a button sized weighted piece of metal with a feather on top. The Chinese were really good at it, but we laowai stunk at it!

One gift was the Chinese version of hackey sack–a button sized weighted piece of metal with a feather on top. The Chinese were really good at it, but we laowai stunk!

She seemed to really like the badminton set. She said she had played, but wasn't very good.

She seemed to really like the badminton set. She said she had played, but wasn’t very good.

The little girl's father.

The little girl’s grandfather.

The neighbors all told us Zaijian (good bye) and shook our hands as we left. One lady wouldn't let go of my hand and kept pointing to me and speaking emphatically. Sadly, I had no idea what she was saying

The neighbors all told us Zaijian (good bye) and shook our hands as we left. One lady wouldn’t let go of my hand and kept pointing to me and speaking emphatically. Sadly, I had no idea what she was saying

On the way back to the bus I was amused to see this large cabbage plant (?) growing out of what appeared to be concrete.

On the way back to the bus I was amused to see this large cabbage plant (?) growing out of what appeared to be concrete.

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Checking out the laowai from the balcony.

Checking out the laowai from the balcony.

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Picking her greens for lunch.

Picking her greens for lunch.

Next post I’ll show you our lunch and the trip to the migrant school. I have 130 pictures (out of 330!) that I’ve whittled down to show you, but I want to make sure you can actually load them on the page. Until next time:

Elevator flowers

Elevator flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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One Response to Can You Say “Santa Claus”? Part 1

  1. anneb54 says:

    This is such a beautiful story. To be able to reach out and touch one person makes a difference in the world. Thank you.

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