|Kang Yu and her students|
Kang Yu taught children in Mangshui (a mountainous town in Baoshan, a city in Southwest China's Yunnan Province) from 2015-2017, after she gave up an opportunity to further her studies in Beijing. In September 2017, she established the Yunnan-based Shiguang Siji Poetry Youth Service Center, a public-welfare organization that provides training to rural teachers, to help them improve their skills of teaching children how to write poems. As she has witnessed the spiritual growth of many rural children during the past few years, Kang has taken pride in helping the kids better understand the true, the good and the beautiful through poetry.
Fulfilling Her Calling
During the autumn of 2015, Kang's teachers recommended her, one of the top students in the School of Economics, under Renmin University, to study in the university's postgraduate Economics program. However, Kang rejected her teachers' suggestion, as she believed rural children needed her help. Later that year, she began teaching politics and calligraphy at a primary school in Mangshui.
"It was a natural choice for me, as providing public-welfare services to residents has become part of my life," Kang has been quoted as saying. While she studied in the university, she participated in many public-welfare activities, as a volunteer. Through the activities, she learned how to help and care for others.
"When I was a little girl, my granny told me, 'Everyone has his/her calling. One should figure it out as he/she follows its lead'," recalls Kang. Her grandmother also encouraged her to worship nature, and to strive to live a better life, while trying her best to help others.
Kang grew up in a happy family. Nurtured by love, she has full confidence in her ability to help others live better lives. With that in mind, she embarked on a journey of helping children in the poverty-stricken, mountainous region improve their studies, so they could empower themselves to create a bright future for themselves.
Finding the Answer to Question
Just because one has his/her calling doesn't mean it is easy to follow that path. When she began teaching her students politics and calligraphy, Kang became confused about how to help the children realize the importance of studying hard, so they could change their fates.
With the help of the school's principal, Kang realized the children, who will live in Mangshui (when they grow up), will become masters of the mountainous town. So, she racked her brains to find ways to motivate her students to make greater efforts to improve their studies, so they could eventually build their hometown into a better place. Luckily, an incident, which occurred in October 2016, gave Kang a hint about the answer to her question.
It was a rainy day. After Kang noticed many of the students were looking out of the window, she asked them to write a poem about rain. When she saw a girl cry, Kang picked up her exercise book to read her poem:
I'm a selfish kid
I wish the sunshine after the rain would only shine on me
To warm me up
I'm a selfish kid
I wish I could find a corner in every place
Where I could comfort myself when my heart is broken
I'm a selfish kid
I wish I could enjoy all the love
From my mom
Kang's heart ached as she read the girl's poem. She realized many of her students, who were left-behind children (whose parents had left home to work elsewhere), were thirsty for love and care. Within a short time, Kang began offering a course to help her students better understand the beauty of poetry, and to encourage the children to write poems to express their feelings. Her course was well received by her students.
In September 2017, Kang established Shiguang Siji Poetry Youth Service Center. She asked several well-known Chinese poets, and several of her former schoolmates, to help her compile and design teaching materials (composed of poems about the four seasons) for rural teachers. Kang hopes teachers, who receive training from the center, will help rural children discover their true selves by writing poems.
By March 2021, teachers with 1,200 primary and middle schools, in 24 of China's provinces, had attended training provided by the center. As a result, more than 130,000 children had participated in poetry-writing lessons. The lessons were not only well received by the children, but also sparked many teachers' interest in studying poetry.
Teachers are pleased to note many students have become more open-minded since they began studying poetry. The children, who treat their teachers like intimate friends, have taken delight in writing poems to share their feelings with their teachers.
During a lecture on social work at Yunnan University, Kang highlighted the center's achievements during the past few years. One of the participants was extraordinarily excited. Why? He had benefited greatly from poetry-writing lessons, provided by his middle-school Chinese teacher, who had received training from the center. Kang was pleased to learn the young man, who was studying social work at the university, was determined to devote himself to promoting the development of the center.
Kang was also pleased to learn another beneficiary of the poetry-writing lessons — a young woman from Yunnan — was admitted to Capital Normal University, after she passed the university-entrance examination. As the woman's younger brother, attending middle school, began taking poetry lessons several months ago, the young woman applied to volunteer at the center, so she could pass on the power of poetry to more young people.
Shaping the Future
Kang and teachers with the center hope writing poetry will help children cultivate their minds, and develop their character. "We do not expect some of the rural children, who have had poetry-writing lessons, will turn out to be great poets, but we do believe, through studying poetry, children will be able to view the world from a broader perspective, so they will have greater power to change the world in future," Kang has been quoted as saying.
|Kang Yu and her students|
(Women of China English Monthly June 2021 issue)
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