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This post was edited by WhiteBear at 2013-6-6 18:00|
GK: Jingpo children are, I presume, bilingual — using both their mother tongue and Mandarin Chinese. This must give them some advantages, but what problems do they face in education and how are they hampered by their social environment?
Dr Lustig: Jingpo kids, growing up in a much-troubled but also ethnologically and ecologically very diverse environment, are multi-lingual and generally much gifted in the arts. However, this area, on the border with Myanmar and is severely affected by drugs and HIV/AIDS. The kids' development is hampered by the complex social and health problems in the area. Also they are at a great disadvantage in the prevailing examination-oriented education system.
That is why my wife Li Yang and I started the Prop Roots Program in 2009. It is a non-profit project aimed at empowering Jingpo children with their own culture utilizing their own creativity. Our goal is to empower the Jingpo children through good education.
They grow up in an eroding culture, with poor chances for development, and immense problems related to drugs and AIDS. We help boost the kids' self-esteem by providing them opportunities to be involved in interesting activities and classes, while also stimulating use of the Zaiwa language and incorporated elements of Jingpo culture. We do this by utilizing Zaiwa story puppet shows, painting with leaves and flowers and "film your own village" projects.
In our classes, they naturally become aware that they have a rich, interesting and unique background, which they can proudly share with the outside world. We connect them with pen pals, volunteers and visitors from elsewhere in China and abroad. We are also planning joint summer camps for Jingpo kids and kids from big Chinese cities.
All of these activities help improve their sense of identity and self-esteem, so that they can dare to speak out and reach for their ideals, become more thoughtful and creative, and stand strong against the temptation of drugs.
Jingpo men at the Munao Zongge dance festival in Longchuan county (龙川县)
GK: Sounds like a project for the very long term. What are your plans to make it sustainable?
Dr Lustig: Indeed, it is a very long-term project. We are aware how challenging our goal is. That's why my wife and I have moved from Beijing to one of the Jingpo villages we love. We are determined to go for our ideals and help the local children.
Of course there are problems galore for grassroots people. Establishing an NGO requires the same level of entrepreneurship as when starting a business, only the funding is an even bigger challenge. In the first three years, Prop Roots was still young and more like a personal initiative for us and our friend
We mainly organized summer and winter camps for the Jingpo children, as well as art exhibitions for them in Beijing. We weren't diligent enough about fundraising, so 80 percent of Prop Roots' backing had to come from our personal incomes. The remaining 20 percent came from donations.
Funding became an even bigger challenge when we started building our children's education center in a beautiful mountain village named Yingpan [营盘村], at the end of 2011. It is a specially-designed eco-friendly building. It uses bamboo, recycled materials, stones and bricks in both traditional and more modern, innovative styles. The center will be used for children's activities and will display their artwork as well as traditional Jingpo cultural items.
It will also enable us to accommodate volunteers, researchers, artists and other visitors. Construction of the center has swallowed all our savings and also forced us to take out heavy bank loans.
Of course, money doesn't grow on trees and we must find long-term solutions. The Prop Roots center, located on a quiet mountain slope with great views, is a lively and multi-cultural platform full of creativity. We are therefore preparing to partly also run it as a special guesthouse with all profits being used for providing a better future for the Jingpo children.
Jingpo woman at the Munao Zongge dance festival in Longchuan county (龙川县)
GK: Can you tell us a bit more about the Prop Roots guesthouse?
Dr Lustig: The Prop Roots children's activity center is nearly finished. It was designed by one of China's top architects and blends in perfectly with the subtropical hillside environment
It contains a large activity space, a children's library and cozy rooms for volunteers and other guests. My wife and I had a hard road to get this done, since we did it mainly from the last of our own money. The local contractors had never worked on anything like it before.
We'd be happy to see both visitors and paying guests who would like to experience a Jingpo village life first-hand. We will be able to take them along when visiting remote villages and they can see traditional festivals, weddings and other ceremonies. Dehong Prefecture, especially its western mountains where we live, is not known as a tourist area.
GK: If visitors want to help out, what kind of contributions could they make, apart from the obvious financial one?
Dr Lustig: They could bring donations for children's activities. Things such as paint, brushes, paper, old cameras and speakers — we have a list of much-needed items on our website. Visitors could also design art or science projects and activities for the children.
Both long term and short term volunteers for Prop Roots would be welcome as well. People with expertise in education project design, communications, fundraising, human resources and financial management could all help Prop Root
content originally posted: http://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/2919/interview_dr_anton_lustig