Right after Spring Festival (Chinese New Year),
some of our Beijing team paid a special visit to a few of the children we’ve been most worried about — those whose parents didn’t make it back home for the holiday. Jessica Zhang, OneSky’s village communications coordinator, shared the day she spent with Yutong.
Today was the first day back to school. When I arrived at Yutong’s house, I was surprised to find how much more active and outgoing she has become! Before when I visited, she would be shy and frightened. Now, even when not quite awake, she talked and asked me questions. It’s like we are old friends!
First thing in the morning, before she went to school to prepare her classroom, Teacher Li kindly stopped by to check on Yutong and to fix her hair.
While Yutong was eating breakfast, her grandma told me that both she and Grandpa feel very moved by the teacher’s caring for Yutong. They have never seen such a thing before. She also said that Yutong had made great progress since entering our program. Now she can count and write some characters.
Yutong wrote her name on the wall in their yard. Since Grandma cannot read, she asked me if Yutong wrote her name correctly. I told her yes and asked what the grandparents thought about Yutong’s many lovely drawings. She said it is not important. Not real school work.
Because it was the first day, Grandma went with Yutong to pay the school fee. OneSky charges a tiny amount to the families so they will value the programs. Of course, no child is turned away for lack of funds.
I don’t remember the first day of school being so exciting! The children couldn’t wait to get to work. The junior class was especially full of energy – for some of these three year olds, it was the first day of school ever.
Some weren’t quite ready.
At recess time, Yutong told me that the slide is her favorite thing at school and then drawing and writing. She confided that Teacher Li treats her very well, but then told me I shouldn’t mention that when we go back to class because the other kids will laugh at her.
“Even though I have three best friends now,” she whispered, “it makes me very sad when kids tease me.” I loved that she could share her feelings with me.
It’s easy to see that Yutong’s special friendship with Teacher Li has given her new confidence. She is participating in class more and has even made some friends.
In the afternoon, she found a pencil on the floor and brought it to Teacher Li. This was huge for Yutong! Just last semester she would steal everything she found. Now the teacher was so moved that she praised Yutong in front of the whole class. Yutong was embarrassed, but I could see she was quite pleased with herself. Such big steps for our little girl!
My favorite part of the day was seeing Yutong walk home with friends after school—just one of the gang.
And the moment she got home, she put down her backpack and drew a beautiful sunflower on the wall. I like to think she was telling the world that she had a beautiful day.
That night, the villagers gathered together to watch a movie about the life of Chairman Mao. Yutong didn’t seem to care much about the movie, but she liked sitting in Grandma’s arms.
After Grandma went to bed, Yutong soon followed. Her parents called at bedtime. Yutong refused to talk to them.
Now I find myself thinking about Yutong so much.
I am really happy for her new friendships and for the great progress she is making. But, of course, I can’t help but feel sadness too.