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Blog: Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Family Day – Making it Memorable

We’re pretty new at this Family Day thing…all of my kids were already out of high school when we got our first one.  So what does Family Day look like? What is it we want them to remember?

One of the Millenium Goals of the United Nations has been about improving educational access for women.  Our school supports the Abbotsford Run for Water, where funds raised help villages in Ethiopia have clean water, and by direct consequence, girls get to go to school, because they don’t have to spend up to four hours fetching water, every day.  Since Chinese New Year is coming up, I thought it would be nice to focus on educational opportunities for girls in rural China.  

You might wonder why this is a topic at all…all the publicity of China is about its incredible growth, skyscrapers everywhere and being a global economic giant.  But a look behind the bamboo curtain reveals that while urban China is progressive, rural China still struggles with issues common to the 19th Century—clean water, education opportunities, and family traditions.

On the way to school, CBC radio was talking about a fundraiser being held in Vancouver to support girls in rural China—helping girls to graduate from high school and attend university.  A little Chinese primer is in order:  In recent decades, China has mandated free schooling for all their children up to grade 9.  But practically speaking, it’s not a lot different than typical school districts in Canada, where schools get shut down in smaller towns when enrolment can’t sustain the school operations, and students get bussed to the next nearest town.  The caveat in China is that they have to pay for their own bussing, lunches and school supplies; a rural farmer only makes about $40 – a year.  Getting back to the main story—as the cost of finishing high school becomes unaffordable, families must decide what to do.  Typically in China, boys get first opportunity to finish school and continue their education, because Chinese tradition dictates that the men will take care of the family, and women find other jobs that will support their family, albeit with a grade 9 education.  

One lady who lives in Vancouver recognized the plight of these girls; girls who had the drive and smarts to go further in their education, but tradition and economic circumstances stood in their way.   She started an organization called EMPOWERING GIRLS IN RURAL CHINA (EGRC), with the simple idea of sponsoring girls to finish high school (about $1300/yr) and go to university.  Her premise follows historical data from the U.S and the UK, and on every other continent—that maternal education levels have a direct positive correlation with their children. In other words, if mom has a higher education, it is a strong predictor of her children’s education (Becker & Tomes, 1986), even more so than dad’s education.  So…if we can help a girl graduate, or even go to university, her family has a better chance of breaking the poverty cycle for the next generation. So far EGRC has helped over 800 girls, and counting.

Since its unveiling last month, I continue to be reminded of our new stairway signage, where step #4 says “We share Generously”.  For me, that means sharing the story of how we help others—to our children—so they can learn to share unconditionally as well. Canada is the best country on the planet and we have the best citizens, because we continue to impress on our children the importance of giving back to our neighour.

Have a great Family Day!