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