Project Hope

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Su Mingjuan, a beneficiary of the Project Hope.

On October 30, 1989, the China Youth Development Foundation initiated "Project Hope"(希望工程), a fund for the relief of underprivileged children, in order to help poverty-stricken students continue and maintain their education.

The project's sponsors: The Communist Youth League (CYL) Central Committee and the China Youth Development Foundation

The project's goal: Its short-term goal is to establish grant-in-aid programs in 328 poverty-stricken counties, with the long-term target centered on ensuring that all Chinese children enjoy the basic right to an education as advanced by the United Nations.

Establishment of the China Youth Development Foundation: China, a developing country, faces a shortage of education funds, especially in poverty-stricken areas. More than 30 million children between the ages of 6-14 are unable to attend school or are forced to drop out, with 84 percent of the total number of related youngsters coming from the countryside. Each year, there are 1 million children deprived of education due to poverty.

A group of 11 drop-outs, including Zhang Shengli in Taomugeda Village, Laiyuan County, Hebei province, received grant-in-aid scholarships from the CYL Central Committee on Oct. 17, 1989. Thereafter, the committee responded to the severe situation in poverty-stricken areas by establishing the China Youth Development Foundation on Oct. 30, 1989, in order to subsidize children unable to go to school. The purpose of the foundation was to "help children with funds collected from society."

Subsidization methods included: 1) establishing long-term grant-in-aid programs to help educationally deprived young students with good character return to school in spite of poor family conditions; 2) building and refurbishing schools for poverty-stricken villages; 3) providing teaching aids, writing materials and textbooks; and 4) providing special scholarships enabling outstanding primary and middle school students in poverty-stricken areas to receive college education. The CYL-sponsored "Project Hope" aimed to support young dropouts and promote the development of basic education in poverty-stricken areas.

The 1990s Development Program for Chinese Children promulgated by the State Council in March 1992 formally listed Project Hope as one of the main measures for ensuring the survival, protection and development of children.

The following key dates represent the development of Project Hope:

In May 1990, the first Hope School opened in Jinzhai County, Anhui province.

In 1991, Taiwan artist Ling Feng established the "Overseas Love Care Fund for Project Hope".

On April 15, 1992, the China Youth Development Foundation implemented the program entitled "Project Hope – Million Love Care Action". The program was jointly implemented by the foundation and project enforcement agencies at all levels nationwide. Donors (individuals or units) were permitted to establish direct ties with a school or provide a dropout from one of the nation's poverty-stricken areas with financial assistance until graduation. The funding offered two assistance programs: 1) donors were permitted to direct a grant-in-aid of 20 yuan to a recipient student for each school term; 2) donors could provide a five-year lump grant-in-aid of 200 yuan to be allocated in stages by either the foundation or the Communist Youth League committees on the provincial and autonomous regional levels.

The project benefited poverty-stricken counties in 23 provinces and autonomous prefectures, including counties in Jiangxi, Sichuan, Hebei, Gansu, Hunan, Shaanxi, Zhejiang, Yunnan, Hubei, Shanxi, Guizhou, Henan, Guangdong, Qinghai, Anhui, Fujian, Shandong and Liaoning provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur, Ningxia Hui, Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous regions.

A student from a primary school in a poverty-stricken area participates energetically in class.

The Million Love Care Action ended in 1992, with an additional 50,000 people from both at home and abroad applying with the foundation for participation in the "one-on-one" donation activity.

The foundation sponsored a second round of the "Project Hope – Million Love Care Action" in Hebei, Guangdong, Liaoning and Hunan provinces in April 1993. The efforts allowed 5,000 more youngsters to receive educational assistance. They enabled all young dropouts in the poverty-stricken counties in the Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces to return to school during that same year.

In September 1993, Project Hope's grant-in-aid ceilings were raised to 30 yuan per school term.

On September 10, 1993, the first Hope School funded by UNESCO opened in Humaying Village, Humaying Town in Fengning Manchu Autonomous County, Hebei Province.

In 1994, the Government Work Report presented during the Second Plenary Session of the Eighth National People's Congress clearly stipulated that Project Hope should continue with the support of Chinese society.

On December 28, 1994, the Project Hope National Supervisory Committee was founded.

By the end of 1994, the six-level – national, provincial, prefecture, county, town and school – Project Hope network was established. A short time later, the China Youth Development Foundation established the computerized Project Hope Management Information System to ensure a strict management system subject to annual audits. The foundation also introduced the Project Hope Social Supervision Day to ensure the standardization and transparency of the management system.

The year of 1995 was designated as the "Project Hope Management Year." At the beginning of the year, the foundation proceeded with the support of a number of domestic publishing houses, including the China Youth Publishing House and the China Juvenile's and Children's Publishing House, and organized a special working agency to select and compile outstanding children's books published over the past few decades. The 500-volume series entitled "Hope House of Books" is divided into seven subject areas – famous literary works, history, culture and arts, science and technology, ecology, dictionaries and reference books, and practical skills. The series was published with donated funds and has since been distributed to schools in poverty-stricken areas. A total of 5 million volumes of the Hope House of Books had been released by July 1996.

Project Hope's grant-in-aid ceiling for recipient students was raised from 300 to 400 yuan on April 25, 1995, with investment standards for the construction of a Hope School raised from 200,000 to 500,000 yuan. Local governments' donations and funds raised locally were used to build new Hope Primary Schools. New donation avenues were also introduced to encourage an individual or unit to donate 100,000 yuan to fund repairs of a village Hope Primary School. An individual or unit would also be able to donate 3,000 yuan to provide a set of the Hope House of Books to a village school.

The foundation stone for China's first Hope Middle School – the Shanghai Bell Nationality Hope Middle School in Wangcun Town, Yongshun County, Hunan province – was laid on July 6, 1995. Shanghai Bell Telephone Manufacturing Co. Ltd. donated 600,000 yuan to construct the school building and gate, with the local government allocating an additional 600,000 yuan for a science and technology building. Educational funds received since 1996 have mainly been used to expand the facility.

Project Hope had received a total of 692 million yuan in donations by the end of 1995, with accumulated expenditures standing at 396 million yuan. Related funds have helped more than 1.25 million drop-outs in poverty-stricken areas return to school, facilitated the construction of 2,074 Hope Primary Schools and led to the distribution of the Hope House of Books series to more than 10,000 primary schools.

The number of dropouts aged 6-14 fell to 18.36 million in 1995, down 14.51 million from the figure listed in the 1990 national census. This accounted for only 8.38 percent of the total school-age population by the end of that year, down by a dramatic 18.62 percent from 1990. The number of illiterate people aged 15-19 also dropped by a wide margin in 1995.

The China Administration of Posts and Telecommunications issued a set of Project Hope Telephone Magnetic Cards in 1996. The two-card set had a face value of 32 yuan, including a two-yuan donation earmarked for Project Hope. Two million cards were issued, with funds raised going for the construction of 15 Hope Primary Schools and the distribution of 300 sets of the Hope House of Books.

Project Hope realized its goal of establishing primary schools in 592 poverty-stricken counties and donating 10,000 sets of the Hope House of Books by the end of 1996.

The China Youth Development Foundation readjusted its grant-in-aid standards for Project Hope once again in January 1997, with the recipient ceiling raised from 40 to 50 yuan per school term. However, the grant-in-aid standard for enabling a student to complete primary schooling remained at 400 yuan. The new standard went to effect on September 1, 1997.

Project Hope received a registered service trademark from the Trademark Bureau of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in May 1997 and became the first registered Chinese public welfare social organization with legally protected intellectual property rights. The foundation introduced its last round of national donation activities for Project Hope at the end of the same month, with commercial banks handling donations in the largest-ever fund-raising effort. The foundation launched the youngsters' love-care savings deposit activity together with the Agricultural Bank of China. Related donations were handled by the Construction Bank of China's business network. A joint program entitled "A Million Enterprises Donating 100 Yuan Each for the Project Hope" was launched in conjunction with the China Industrial and Commercial Bank.

On March 1, 1998, the China Youth Development Foundation announced that Project Hope's implementing of institutions at all levels had received total donations of 1,257,329,080 yuan by the end 1997, with assistance outlays of 975,100,598 yuan. The project had provided assistance to 1,847,025 drop-outs and supported the construction of 5,256 Hope Schools.

The foundation will easily realize the goal of providing financial assistance to 3 million dropouts and establishing 6,000 Hope Schools by the end of the century.

On May 11, 1998, the Project Hope National Supervisory Committee announced that the China Youth Development Foundation had initiated a comprehensive audit of financial assistance to more than 1.8 million children. The audits focused on the current status of areas receiving support; the establishing and improving of detailed rules and regulations for providing financial support for students deprived of their right to an education; the effort of recipient areas to promote and implement the management of donations; the administration and education of recipient students; the distribution of grants-in-aid; the management of letters of acknowledgment of donations; and continuing supervision.

Shanghai's Qingpu County donated 2 million yuan to Project Hope in June 1998. The youth foundation used the donation to establish a special fund to support the construction and development of the Project Hope National Agricultural Scientific and Educational Base. The base which covers 100 hectares in Liansheng Town, Qingpu County, opened on the 10th anniversary of the founding of Project Hope.

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