La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
December 2007 Newsletter
3rd December 2007
Season’s greetings – Christmas 2007 and New Year 2008 - to all. May Peace and Joy be always within you.
A few minutes ago I picked up an email from Brother Vincent gently reminding me, as he always does over many years, to put a few lines together for our Jan-Mar 2008 issue of our District Newsletter. So here I am, sitting at the office of our Provincialate, writing this message. Allow me, on behalf of all of us in our beloved District of Penang, record our sincere thanks to Brother Vincent for his dedication to edit and publish our newsletter for so well and for so many years. It is certainly a labour of love. For many of us who do not travel extensively throughout our far flung district, it is our main source of news of what is going on in every sector and every community. I also want to draw attention to Vincent’s often unsung but certainly heroic efforts to publish a book on every Brother in our District soon after peacefully returning to the Good Lord. Syabas Vincent!
The last programme for LSSC was the Harvesting Season Programme from 5th to 9th November. Rural schools throughout China are allowed a week’s holiday to enable children to help in the harvesting. It was time to harvest the last rice and sweet potatoes crop for the year and to collect, clean, repair and store away all farming implements. I took that opportunity to give extra lessons for the students of my village Changjiao and neighbouring Qicun. In spite of having announced that I would not want to take in new students, many villagers from Qicun brought their children along to join the classes.
4th November is sort of a historic day for LSSC Changjiao. While I was interviewing students who were accompanied by parents and introduced by villagers of Changjiao, I noticed three girls and two boys peeping in through the door now and then and hanging around for more than two hours. I instructed one of my regular students to ask them to come in. I asked them where they came from and what they wanted. They told me that they were from neighbouring Qicun and they wanted to join our English classes. I them asked them why they did not come in to register like the other new students. They answered that their parents were not free to accompany them and there was no one to introduce them. I then realized that two of the girls were identical twins, dressed exactly alike and both had a crucifix hanging on a simple string round the neck. I decided there and then to accept all five of them.
While registering the pair of twins, I casually asked who gave them the crucifix to wear. They answered that it was their grandmother. I then asked if they are Catholics and they simply said yes. So, the unexpected has happened. For me it is a sign that LSSC is set for another stage of development. The next day, Monday 5th November, after class I told the twins to inform their parents that I would be making a home visit. The twins waited for me at the entrance to Qicun and took me to their home to meet their parents. Their father is Qicun’s village traditional herbal medicine doctor. He told me that they are the only Catholic family in Qicun. They were originally from Feng Sun which is home to “old Catholics” in the diocese of Meizhou.
Mission Project China in Changjiao has come a long way from a single borrowed classroom in the village primary school in 2002 to what is now popularly known as La Salle Study Centre, Changjiao which is independently housed in a newly renovated ancestral home. We run the much in demand Saturday and Sunday English tuition classes during the weekends. On weekdays, LSSC functions as a study centre from 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Changjiao’s students to study and do their homework. If a student manages his/her time well, he/she is allowed to participate in the computer literacy programme, and to learn to play the piano or electric organ or the guitar. Saturday nights, from 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. is recreation night and is self-structured. Students are free to read books, play educational board games, use the internet, play the piano, organ or guitars, sing songs and participate in line dancing. A number of villagers also turn up on Saturday nights to watch the dancing and generally to socialize. Tea is always served. Biscuits and fruits donated by parents from Dabu-Huliao, whenever available, are shared.
In addition to the regular weekend English tuition classes, LSSC now organizes 5 separate English Programmes. We begin the year with the 10 days Winter Programme from late January to early February. Most students of this programme are local students and outstation students returning to Changjiao to celebrate the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). In May, coinciding with the International Workers Holiday we run a 6 days May Holiday Programme. Our most popular and best known programme is the 4 weeks Summer English Reading Programme from mid-July to mid-August which attracts students from all over Guangdong Province and neighbouring Fujian Province. During the National Golden Week Holiday around 10th October we run another 6 days programme. Our final programme for the year is the 5 days Harvest Holiday programme for rural school students in early November.
The villagers are now aware that the cost of developing and running LSSC is mounting each year. Installing the air-conditioners and running them this summer amounted to more that RMB34,000/-. In order to provide adequate accommodation for volunteers, both adult and student teachers, more than RMB25,000/- was spent on double-decked beds, mattresses, bed-sheets, pillows and pillow-cases. The cost of feeding the volunteers came close to RMB20,000/-. I am please to announce that locally there was a donation totaling RMB21,000/- from 2 Guangzhou and 2 Shenzheng businessmen. The rest was covered by donations from Lasallians of Malaysia-Singapore-Hongkong. I take this opportunity, on behalf of the students, to thank everyone for supporting LSSC Changjiao. On behalf of the villagers of Changjiao-Baijiang I want to record our thanks for your financial support in the mini community development projects initiated by LSSC since 2004. LSSC is in the hamlet of Baijiang of the village of Changjiao. Today, Baijiang is looked upon as a model of village development with a proper ring road system, road lamps, central drinking water system, relatively good drainage system, all septic tanks serviced toilets, and even patches of flower gardens. Come and see!
On the domestic front, my niece who was my housekeeper ever since I moved into LSSC Baijiang in 2005, decided to resign at the end of August for health reasons. She had a minor heart attack in mid-August and her husband and children in Shenzheng asked her to retire and join them there. For two and a half months I was on my own. The villagers of Baijiang were very solicitous and took turns to provide meals for me. I make my own breakfast and eat lunch from Monday to Friday in the primary schools where I teach. The other meals were on an ad hoc basis. It was either I was invited or I invited myself!
The Hakka clan is known to eat dog meat cooked in a variety of ways as “warming medicine” during the cold season. If there are no emails to attend to after the students have gone home after night study at LSS during the weekdays, I normally drop by in at one of the villagers for a cup of tea – or at times a glass of wine – to relax at the end of the day. Just before the village lights go off automatically at 10.30 p.m. I will take a walk back to my house. The dogs will bark and rush out until they see me or sense me around. One night, just before harvesting time, I suddenly realized that the barking went on longer and no dogs came out to confront me. The dogs were all locked in the houses and not roaming around any more. The next morning I asked and was told that “the dog-napping season” was on because the cold weather had begun. Dogs had to be guarded against dog-thieves. Hence they are no long allowed to roam free at night to watch the house. The house must protect the dogs against “dog-nappers”.
Before I left for Hongkong-Malaysia, many of the students asked that I return early to celebrate Christmas with them. They have never celebrated Christmas before. They have read about it but never experienced it. I am seriously considering spending Christmas 2008 in Changjiao. I need assistance. I am giving a one year notice. Let me know if you like the idea. Your presence and your presents are most welcomed!
Take care and God bless. Please keep us in your prayers.
As always with love in DLS,
All good things must
come to an end...