Inspiring the Next Generation of Chinese Young Women

DSC_3124What can bring together rich and poor, Caucasians and Asians, local people and international jet-setters, young and old, people of strong religious convictions and those without, together into a harmonious and purposeful group? The answer: the universal desire to offer hope to the next generation, especially young women.

On February 21-23 a diverse group of 15 students and 3 teachers from HKIS, 8 seminarians, 3 members of Church of All Nations, and CWEF‘s Executive Director, Iantha Scheiwe, took off on Friday afternoon from Hong Kong and traveled 8 hours northwest to one of the poorer counties in Guangdong Province called Deqing.

DSC_3178While we did many activities with the girls to bolster their language skills – English lessons, speeches, poetry, and singing- the underlying purpose was to encourage these scholarship winners to remain hopeful and energetic in pursuit of their goals. The girls are all capable, having passed the national high school entrance exam, which permits them to study in the best school in the county. However, without the scholarship, the financial burden of the tuition cost, approximately $400 US, would force the girls to either quit school and enter the work force prematurely, or cause their families to be driven deeper into debt. Many of the girls’ families already have health issues to contend with that exacerbate the typical rural poverty that is endemic to this hilly region of northwest Guangdong Province.

DSC_3123One of the highlights of the weekend was to give the Deqing girls an experience with community service. Just as HKIS students find reaching out beyond their general circle of concern to focus on the needs of others to be not only rewarding, but even therapeutic , so too did the scholarship girls find that an afternoon visit to a local special needs school is an uplifting experience. The girls want to be more than recipients of other people’s gifts; they want “pay it forward” as well.

At the special needs school, students had the opportunity to play ping pong with a gold medal winner of the 2008 Para-Olympics in Beijing who is from Deqing. Students only won one point. Julia (pictured below) was able to slam an overhead winner past the world champion!


On Sunday morning, the Hong Kong group had the rare and precious opportunity of visiting homes of the girls, and to wish their families success in the coming year. These home visits helped the Hong Kong visitors to experience the living conditions of the scholarship winners, and to understand the challenges that families face, despite the close family bonds that are often evident.

DSC_3171One of the unique features of this trip was that two freshmen HKIS boys, Parker and Jordan, wrote  and recorded a song dedicated to the girls. During the weekend the boys filmed some of the girls singing the song and collected additional footage. In weeks to come, the two boys will combine the video with their recording to produce what is hoped will be a moving tribute to the girls, and will also serve as a fundraiser to extend the dream of an education to other deserving girls in the area.


Here is the song that they produced.

The presence of seminarians from Lutheran Theological Seminary also added a special dimension to the group’s experience. Thanks to the support of Church of All Nations, students from Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia, and US were able to join this trip. The trip allowed the seminarians to consider how young students can be easily motivated to contribute to the needs of others, if only given the opportunity to personally participate in a meaningful cause. The seminarian students also have the opportunity to consider how service learning can be an effective ministry involving international students.

DSC_3182The seminarians enjoy the lake in Zhaoqing before heading back
to Hong Kong. 

One seminarian shared in a debriefing session on Saturday night that her family had struggled with poverty in her early years, but that the support of a World Vision program enabled her to receive an education. Now enrolled in a doctoral program at Lutheran Theological Seminary, her purposeful engagement teaching the scholarship winners spoke of her desire to pass on the hope that she had been given in her formative years to the next generation of Chinese girls.

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About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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6 Responses to Inspiring the Next Generation of Chinese Young Women

  1. First of all, I still find it very surprising and alarming that places like this still exist in Guangdong Province, a province frequently marked as the richest province in China. The opening up and reform of China, although targeted at Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta, has evidently caused huge disparity. There are two sides of extremity – on one side, the super rich, living in shiny new gated complexes in Guangzhou. On the other side, girls living in poverty, without even an opportunity to go to a school which they qualify for.

    This initiative for external individuals to go in and encourage these girls really does strike me as a very, very good idea. I am a firm believer that the future of China lies in education – especially education for girls. The Cultural Revolution has ripped the fabric of Chinese Society to threads in unimaginable ways – only through education and moral education, can we hope to mend this fabric back together. Girls, being the bearer of children, and therefore the future generation of China, must be the first to receive this new education.

    I also find the fact that this service trip was in fact a “service trip within a service trip”. The girls you were helping were in fact brought to do service themselves. Not only did you help those in De Qing, but you also exposed to them to the transformative power of compassion and service, something so lacking in China that it is unbelievable (this is a country where pedestrians hesitate to rescue babies who have been run over by cars; it is an extremely sad reality).

    I really hope that through trips like this, and through girls’ education, Chinese society can be repaired.

  2. Thanks, Jon, for the comment. I hope you can come with us some time. I’m proud to be a part of this program. I like your comment about a “service trip inside of a service trip.” We started doing this a few years ago, and the girls really enjoy it, just like our kids do.

  3. Seng Ja, one of the seminarians who attended the trip, gave permission for this comment to be posted:

    To God be the Glory!

    Thanks to Church of All Nations for the generosity for supporting 8 students from Lutheran Theological Seminary to be part of CWEF . Also thanks to Executive Director Iantha Scheiwe and Dr.Marty Schmidt for their well organized program and schedule.

    I am Layang Seng from Kachin Theological College, Kachin State, Myanmar and currently studying DTh First Year (New Testament) program at Lutheran Theological Seminary. It was my privilege to participate in this short term project and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Some girls from my group did not speak English well but through this camp they will surely be encouraged to go forward. The struggle and difficulty they encounter today will turn into victory in the days to come.

    The trip also gave me mixed feelings. The experiences with the girls from Deqing remind me of my childhood days. When I was a young girl like them, I too was supported by so-called “parents” through World Vision for my schooling. I used to receive their letters along with a Burmese translation and enough money for my education. In those days, our country (Myanmar) was isolated so foreigners couldn’t come to my place. So, I didn’t have a chance to ever meet them. But I still could receive their letters occasionally. Whenever I read the translation of the letter, I felt dissatisfied. It made me imagine beyond the translation. The more I received their letters, the more I wanted to read their original letter in English.

    I also realized a bigger world existed on this planet beyond my village and beyond my country. Education was the only route for me to explore the world God has created. The wish for further education encouraged me to study hard and read more English. My strong desire pushed me and motivated me to overcome the difficulties I encountered at those times. My so-called “parents’” name was Mr. and Mrs. Dickson from the United Kingdom. Due to the Burmese political situation, they stopped supporting me when I was in grade 9. Since then we lost contact with each other. Though I desperately wanted to see and talk to them at least once in my life, until now, I have no chance to see them in person. But I am sure that part of what I am today is shaped by their generosity, love, encouragement and support. I am always thankful to God for providing these people to me when I was in need of help.

    The girls from Deqing are so blessed to be with teachers from HKIS, native English speakers and HKIS students who are experts in English. As I experienced in life, I am sure that in the future, the girls from Deqing will become influential leaders and the memory they have will always help them to do good things to others. I believe that people who invest in education are wise. For their investment in a young person’s education will never be in vain.

    Layang Seng Ja
    DTh First Year
    New Testament Department
    Lutheran Theological Seminary
    Hong Kong

  4. mirrorgirl says:

    wonderful work and optimism! Keep going!

    • Thanks! It was a very good trip, and I’ll share the music video with on my blog. I looked at your blog, and see you recommend Abundance. I’m taking it on the plane with me to India along with 20 students tomorrow. What I’ve read so far is impressive.

  5. Pingback: “I Can! You Can! We Can!” Empowering Young Women at a CWEF Summer Camp | Social Conscience and Inner Awakening

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