Girls' education project is proving a massive success

Girls' education project is proving a massive success

Our early life experiences tend to shape who we are and what we do in our adulthood.

For Tien Ching, founder of the charity organisation Educating Girls in Rural China, her experience during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) in her teenage years changed her life, and consequently, the destiny of hundreds of girls in Gansu, Guizhou and Qinghai provinces that have benefitted from the education project she created.

Tien Ching, who now lives in Canada, was only 17 years old when her life took a dramatic turn after being sent to work in a factory in rural Gansu.

She went from studying in one of Beijing's most prestigious schools to completely giving up on her education.

When she returned to the capital city eight years later in the early 80s she found it hard to enroll in university and decided to emigrate to Canada to chase a better future.

She started a family there and did not look back to that period of her life.

But in 2004, during a UNICEF fundraiser event for African girls at her daughter's school, she was inspired by the concept that "educated women will have educated children".

That was her "light bulb moment" to set up Educating Girls in Rural China.

"That event reminded me of my own life in Gansu and the poverty and limited resources that girls face in rural areas of China," she said. "It showed me that just one opportunity can change your whole future."

Her idea started taking shape and a year later the organisation was registered in her country of adoption.

She started by raising $30,000 that managed to pay the tuition fees of 150 elementary school girls, and 24 first-year university students.

"The following year, the government started a new policy - no tuitions for students from Grade 1 to 9 in China. I realised I was working on a very limited budget and that I needed to focus on university candidates because that was a huge step for girls from rural families."

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the organisation. Since its creation in 2005, EGRC has helped over 500 girls from rural areas of Gansu, Guizhou and Qinghai get through school and on to college.

Around 300 of the sponsored girls have already graduated, 150 are currently attending university, and more than 100 are attending high school.

Tien said she feels most proud of having achieved a 100-per cent graduation rate, and attributes that to the fact her organisation does more than merely provide financial means to the girls - it's often the moral support that it offers that proves the key to success, she insists.

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