Real Lives

According to UN-HABITAT, nearly one billion people alive today—one in every six human beings—are slum dwellers. Within the next two decades, this number will double. This overwhelming statistic certainly requires a call to action. However, numbers are not the only way to express the extreme need for compassion. The following stories add a personal touch to issues that many migrants face every day.

Read their stories

Pouring out my effort

Jinghua speaks of his experience as a trainee in Included’s migrant teacher training program. I used to teach in a private school in the countryside. Since I keep pouring my effort to my work as well as the humorous teaching method learned from my teachers, I was so confident about my teaching skills. When I received praise from students and their parents, I was even proud of myself. For such a long time, I thought I was qualified to teach in primary school although I was not highly educated.

At the very beginning of this semester, I heard that there would be a teacher training program with limited quota of people. Because of the curiosity and willing to learn, I signed up for the training immediately. Someone told me this training was just organized for young teachers, so it was unnecessary for whose who had been teachers for over ten years. As for me, I would never stop longing for knowledge and better teaching methods.

The training enables me to know more about myself. I was deeply absorbed when I attended teacher Misty’s (the head teacher of teacher training program) first class. I thought I was a humorous teacher, however, compared to her, I was so outshone. Further more; I would never forget the first question she raised, “What is the most important tool in class?” After listing nearly a whole page, I was so pleased with my various kinds of answers. However, I was entirely shocked when Ms. Misty showed her answer to me. I never realized that teacher himself/herself is the most important tool in class. How can the other tools performed well without the present of teacher? At that moment, I made my mind to attend all the lessons of this program.

The training changed the relationship between me and my students. I used to take it for granted that one’s intelligence quotient was unchangeable. Thus according to their scores, I consciously divided them into good students and bad students. As a result, the good became better, while the bad became worse. This training teaches me that students’ intelligence should not be judged merely by their scores. Many of them are excellent at other fields. From then on, I began to change my attitude towards the so-called bad students and tried to encourage them instead of blaming. Once in a handicraft class, I praised a “bad” student for his exquisite skills, encouraging others to learn from him by saying he was the cleverest student in the class. Soon afterwards his parent visited me and told me that his kid was so happy when being praised. And even his enthusiasm of study was stimulated.

Last but not least, the skills of class management were improved during this training. Most of the students in my class have a good sense of discipline. However, I was worried that some of the naughty students might affect class reputation. Soon I got an inspiration from the training and elected the most mischievous student as discipline inspector. Being one of the class leaders, he realized that he should be a good example of others and really did what fits his position.

In the last parents’ meeting, I shared what I have learned with the parents together with the students’ performance. The majority of them quite agreed with my opinion especially on the attitudes towards the score. Instead of reporting the score of every student, I first told them a story. Once there was a very diligent child, but he was never able to enter into the first twenty places in primary school. So he then asked his mother: “Mom, am I a stupid kid?” His mother didn’t answer. Then he worked even harder in the middle school, however, he asked the same question since he failed to enter into the first five. No reply again. When he graduated from the middle school, he decided to give up after asking the same question a third time. During the vacation, his mother decided to take him to the seaside for a trip. There they saw a flock of sparrows and seagulls were fighting for the food. The former flied easily while the latter flatter their wings clumsily. Suddenly, his mother knew the answer to the question which bothered her beloved child so many years. She turned to him and asked, “Honey, Who do you think are able to fly over the sea, the sparrows or the seagulls?” Her son didn’t answer directly, but was entirely enlightened. Though clumsy, the seagulls could fly farther and higher than sparrows. Eventually, he persisted in his ambition and successfully enrolled in Tsinghua University.

The training will be ended soon and I’m eager to learn more during the last two lessons. Hopefully more and more teachers can have the same opportunity as me, experiencing the happiness by surfing in the sea of knowledge, so that we can work hard together to improve China’s education system.

Trainees like Jinghua and seventy others attend 8 modules of teacher training over the course of a semester at an Included community center. The teacher training focuses on (1) creating a healthier teacher-student relationship and (2) developing a more interactive classroom environment.

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Learning life at Included

Li Xintong (alias) speaks of his experience as a migrant youth trainee in Included's Life-Vocational Skills Training Program

"As for me, Beijing is a place full of beautiful memory. Although I have been here only for a short time, I found it a really nice place to be. With all the people I have met and things experienced as well as the places of interests that I have visited, I was moved, tasted happiness, and sometimes felt miserable.

I have learned a lot in Included: regained confidence when I was upset and joy when sad. I began to know that I was not alone, since I have received love here whenever I need. Included did not only enrich my life, but also helped me to remove most of my bad habits.

What I have learned from Included changes my negative view towards life, teaching me that everyone has a prosperous future. It seems that I have reborn and gradually find the truths of life, which I have never imagined before. Take the relationship for example. Be polite to each other; control your temper when necessary; learn to express as well as listen carefully to others. It is communication that makes people closer. Moreover, form good habits, discover interests in learning, pay attention to your attitude and make sure of the quality and quantity when given a task.

These unforgettable days at Included are the richest and happiest time during my life up till now. With regard to the time management, I know that everyone is given the same amount of time. But it differs on how we arrange it. After learning the urgency-importance graph, I try to divide things into different categories, so that things can be done orderly. A good plan enables me to make good use of time.

During the training period, we’re also taught to dress properly when in the workplace. Appropriate attire makes us look professional. Since we are a team, team spirit should be the last one to neglect. Everyone is different and everyone is special. If we know how to collect our advantages together, then one plus one is greater than two.

As is known to all, learning is a lifelong process. When having the computer lessons, I discovered the limitation of my knowledge. I appreciate the opportunity to learn Microsoft Office systematically, because it confirms what I have learned before. Computer is not only convenient but also practical. In the English class, one can make progress as for as s/he works hard.

Thanks Included for providing me such a good chance to experience school life once again. What I have learned here is not simply knowledge but also how to be a better man. Included has granted me a good chance to learn as well as a new step to begin with. Please allow me to give my sincere gratitude to all the teachers. Thank you so much."

Trainees like Xintong attend six months of training at an Included community center (this is a live-in program) and then are placed in a partner company such as Subway or Yoshinoya where they can gain long-term employment which in turn, increases the income and quality of life for their families.

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I am not a stat

“I had never used a computer before. The teacher lets us use it and shows us how to type letters and draw pictures. Last week I made a picture for my mom all by myself!

In drama class, I learn to express my feelings. Before I did not know how to show my mom and dad or my classmates how I felt, but drama class showed me some good ways to talk to others. Now, my teacher at school praises me for getting along with my classmates.

After we finish homework, there are lots of books we can read. I had never seen so many books before. The stories are so interesting that it makes me want to do my homework so I can read.

The volunteer teachers at the community center encourage me to pursue my dreams and make me feel valuable. I now know that I can really contribute to my society and look forward to my future!”

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Why the children keep coming back

Early in the morning, they watch their parents leave. Long after dark, their parents drag themselves in the door, tired and hungry. These long hours take their toll on the health of migrant families. Children spend most of their time unsupervised, feeling a bit neglected. Yet parents have no choice but to work long hours in order to support their family. To provide children with a safe and creative environment when they are not in school, Included began its After School Program.

The program operates Monday to Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. In the first hour, volunteers tutor children and help them complete their homework. In the second hour, children can choose from different activities as a reward for finishing their homework. Each day, four different activities are provided, including music, dance, arts and crafts, sports, computer, drama, and reading. Since Included started the program in 2006, we have seen the children changing day by day. At the beginning of the program, the kids didn’t like to do their homework and just wanted to play with the other children. However, as our volunteers encouraged them and helped them do their homework, their confidence toward their studies grew. Many children have run up to me and told me that they learned a lot in the activity hour. They had never used a computer before they attended our program. Now they can type and draw pictures on the computer without any problem. The children also said the performance class has helped them learn how to better express their feelings, so their school teacher praised them.

When two teachers from Yuhui Migrant School recently visited our community center, they said they were impressed by the happiness in the community center. Included’s community center has been equipped with tables and chairs for the students to use, and a reading corner has been established with donated books. Many children really enjoy reading the books; some of them have never seen so many good books before and occasionally, students even bring books home without permission. One day after our program, three children came to me and said, “Teacher, I saw “Mei” bring your book home today, and she doesn’t want to give it back!” The girl was too ashamed to come back to the center so after a few days, I tried something. I asked one of the other students, “Hey, could you do me a favor? Can you help me tell Mei that I already know she brought the book home? I understand that she likes reading, but she didn’t ask for permission, which is not very good. I am not angry; I am trusting she will bring it back. Could you tell her?” He eagerly replied, “Yes!” Ten minutes later, the girl came back with the book she had taken and said, “Teacher, I am sorry I brought the book home. I am so sorry; I won’t do it again.” With a smile, I replied, “Thank you for your honesty; I appreciate it! And I forgive you.” Since then, the girl has come to the community center almost every day.

This is just one story of the many children who have been changed by Included’s After School Program and it is a joy to see them growing! We need volunteers who really care about these children and who are willing to help them grow day by day even though sometimes they are naughty. Volunteers with compassion who can commit to being a stable influence in the children’s lives are a great benefit to their lives of these valuable migrant children!

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You can change everything if you do it the right way

An open letter from a mother speaking of her experience in the Included Family Education Workshops.

My name is Xiaoqin Lin. I come from Jiangsu province. My son Haolin Yang is seven and a half. He is a first grader at The No.2 Experimental (‘Accelerated') Primary School. I have learned so much from the Family Education Workshops. It has corrected the way I discipline my child. It first changed me, then my son, and eventually my husband. Here, I'd like to share with everyone what I have learned and the changes in my family.

Ever since my son attended primary school, I noticed that he had developed many behavioral problems. My son was involved in every disciplinary case at school, so his teacher contacted me once every few days. I had a bad temper, so I showed my rage whenever I was angry with him. I yelled at him and hit him, but the result was the opposite of what I expected. He started to rebel and his behavior was even worse. I worried about him every day. I tried to give strict and firm disciplines, but it still didn't work. I didn't know what else to do. I bought many parenting books, but I couldn't implement what I learned. Everyday, I yelled at my son and lived with stress and anger. It eventually affected my husband and our relationship. I felt that this family was hopeless. Everyday I wondered "Why is this happening to me? What can I do?"

I learned about Included's Family Education program from a friend. After only one lesson, I found the answers to my questions. I realized that I was the problem. I decided that I must finish the lessons, adopt and implement the 6A parenting style and then I can change my son and husband. After my first lesson, I changed my behavior, and a miracle happened to my son. In the past, every time he came back from school, he would first eat and drink. He wouldn't finish his homework even if I yelled until my throat hurt. Every time I became very angry, but this time I didn't. I put him on my lap, held his hands, touched his head and told him why he had to do his homework, and he went and finished his homework by himself. I was so happy to see this. I praised him for his good behavior and promised that I would give him a present if he kept this up. And this is how I got rid of one of his bad habits. I was surprised at the simplicity of my first step to success.

Another time, he didn't finish his homework on time at school, and his teacher kept him after school. When he walked out, I said to him with a smile, "Son, you worked so hard today. All of your classmates left, but you are still doing homework." He looked at me sadly and said, "No, mom. It's because I didn't finish homework on time. I won't do it again." Every time I came home from Included’s Family Education lesson, I changed, and my son improved. My temper is much better now. My son once said to me, "Mom, you are like a tame wolf now." Now every time he does something wrong, I will simply look at him, and he will come over, apologize, and accept my discipline. His teacher has also started to praise his good behavior.

I used the same strategies on my husband, and it was very rewarding. I feel that my husband cares about me and loves me more now. Now I am happy every day. Before I attended the Family Education program, I was so worried about my son that I didn't want to do any thing. Now I do chores and keep the house clean. I realized that there are no bad children or bad husbands. You can change everything if you do it the right way.

I want to encourage those who worry about their children and family to attend Family Education. I am sure it will bring significant changes to your life. I'm not good at writing, but these are my true feelings. In the future, I will attend Included's Family Education classes no matter how busy I am. The teachers volunteered to teach us. You can't even buy this if you have money! Wish you good health and happiness.

Xiaoqin Lin

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Mentored by my mentee

A volunteer talks about what she learned from her mentee in the Buddy Mentoring Program.

"Growth" is not a word specific only for the young. Every experience in our daily lives can make us more mature. For instance, the Buddy Mentorying program at Involved has been an important "growing" experience for me.

When I spend time with Huali, I often feel like I am both a mentor and a mentee, because I always learn so much. When I suggested that we visit the Botanical Garden, she agreed cheerfully. Because we wanted to avoid the hottest time of the day and spend more time enjoying the scenery, we got up at five in the morning. I have been to the Botanical Garden before, so I didn't expect this trip to be very exciting. Yet, Huali had a lot of fun seeing the colorful tulips and daisies. We went to the stone museum, where both of us had never been to. Getting up at five in the morning for two days in a row, I expected my time there to be torturous. To me, the stone museum was just a collection of ordinary stones organized into ordinary shapes, but it made Huali so happy. She would burst out with delight "Sister, look! These stones are amazing!" For me, they were really ordinary stones, but they became special because of Huali. I began to see the stones through Huali's - the stones became more colorful, prettier and even brighter than rainbows, and I am full of energy again. When I gave her my time and attention, I gained even more from her.

I often feel that I am the mentee, not the mentor, because I always learn so much from Huali. When we go out together, she always reminds me to bring things like water. Huali always helps to carry the bottles of water, but I felt they were too heavy for her small and skinny body. Trying to protect her, I offered to carry them but she would insist with determination on carrying them herself. I once tried using the game "paper-rock-scissors" to resolve this situation. However, no matter how often we played she would always somehow end up winning! I eventually gave up and realized that the right thing to do is to give Huali the right to make her own choice and not underestimate her strength and capabilities.

Although we don't know each other well yet, I believe that both of us will learn greatly from one another. Some day, problems might occur between us but when that happens, I believe we will face it and resolve it together. The problem is not a ‘problem' but just part of growing up.

Mentor: Dan Wu
Mentee: Huali

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