【The Student Observer】: JNU Volunteer Team’s Bazaar Raises Money for Village Elders
“It is so adorable!” A customer said of a canvas bag printed with a line drawing of a camera. “I fell in love with this the moment I saw its photo.”
She found her treasure at a charity bazaar held by the JNU Image Volunteer Team on South Campus from Nov. 24 to 27 to support its poverty-relief project to bring scientific and literacy knowledge and offer medical service to rural areas. The bazaar sold sundries and secondhand goods to raise funds for elders in poor, remote villages, raising nearly 800 yuan. Part of the profits will be used to buy photographic paper, on which team members print portraits for those without access to photos. The rest will be donated to the villages.
Volunteers set up two orange tents as their “store” on the east square outside the school library’s north gate. On two long folding desks they displayed the goods for sale, with half a dozen team members selling and two handing out brochures in each sales period. From the other side of the road, volunteers could be heard calling: “Charity bazaar! Have a look at it!”
The bazaar was full of small second-handed wares -- mobile phone shells, toys, bags, toothpaste -- donated by JNU students. Shoppers could buy a suitcase or a mouse for less than 10yuan and a book for less than five. Volunteers also prepared postcards, bookmarks and canvas bags as bonuses for those who spent above certain amount.
Students actively participated. “Really, so many people wanted this yesterday, I can tell.” one of the volunteers said of a canvas bag during the sale.
Ye Qianqian, one of the volunteers, met some customers who wanted to donate money rather than buy goods. Although she understood and appreciated their kindness and enthusiasm, Ye said she couldn’t go against her principle of the charity bazaar: to raise funds by selling goods. In the end, the customers chose to buy as much as they could.
Ma Haoran, the team leader, estimated that over 100 students participated in our activity and gave their donations “We only held it for two and a half days, which is not a very long period of time, but the result is more than good,” Ma said. “It’s perfect.”
Ma said the team would use all the money to buy the frames and paper for photos of village elders. “Last year, about 700 sets of frames and papers were sent to the people in Yunnan province,” he said. “Each set of frame and paper cost about 10 yuan, so altogether it was about 7,000.”
Beyond the Bazaar
The Image Volunteer Team was established in 2013 as part of “Bring Scientific and Literacy Knowledge and Offer Medical Service to Rural Areas,” a poverty-relief project started by the Chinese government in 1996. It developed into an independent club in spring 2017. To date, its members have traveled to Guangdong, Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi and Yunnan provinces, taking 4,790 photos for 4,285 elders.
Heng Junrong, general director of the bazaar, recalled a boy who came to the bazaar who was very interested in the Image Volunteer Team, carefully examined its organizational chart, the purpose of the bazaar and previous volunteer activities. “What impressed me the most,” Heng said, “was that the boy knew the places we went, our activities and videos so well, and that he was keen to join us to help more elders.”
The team held its first bazaar in June 2019 and then went to Tengchong, Yunnan province, and Xiaoguwei retirement home in Guangzhou to help those in needs.
In Tengchong, volunteers interacted closely with the elders in poverty-stricken villages. Lin Qiuxia was deeply impressed by the villagers. “They dress in their best clothes, only for a single shot, only for keeping their best appearance in the photo,” She wrote in her blog. One elderly man wore cotton-padded coat to take photos, even though it was midsummer because he thought it was his best-looking one. Another wore a military uniform and saluted to pose for the camera. “When I’m saluting, I feel like I’m full of energy,” He explained. Some Dai grannies even dressed in traditional Dai clothes, which they wear only during Chinese New Year.
Before going to Xiaoguwei retirement home in Guangzhou, the team members had prepared a lot more. Knowing that the elders were leading a dull life there, the volunteers gave performances to amuse them and chatted with them with their permission during the visit.
No specific area has been chosen to receive this year’s donations, Ma said, “but the team tends to look for the elder people in remote areas, like some villages deep in the mountains.” The volunteers say that they have gained a lot from all their charity activities. On the Image Volunteer Team), Ye said, “I can do charity work as I like; I can warm the declining years of those lonely elders; I can see my fellows’ kindness and warm-hearted actions.”
“In our journey of charity works, we’ve found so many people accompanying and supporting us,” said Heng Junrong. “What keeps encouraging us to do more are the countless elders’ smiles recorded or to be recorded by us.”
Lin wrote on her blog: “Before I visited those elders in poverty, what I couldn’t understand so deeply was that although we live under the same blue sky, lives of different people can be so contrary. Most of the reasons for poverty are hard to change in a short period. People are born equal but live unequally.”
Article: Zhu Yuantong, student of Journalims 2019 batch
Photo source: Xu Weibin, Jin Chenwei, Chen Jiying