Friday, June 6, 2008


What We Are Doing:

In an effort to assist in the aftermath of China’s recent, devastating earthquake, we are establishing a scholarship fund for middle school students in Beichuan county, Sichuan province, China. This fund will directly benefit the 3rd year students at Guixi Junior High School in Beichuan county, and will be applied to providing for dormitory fees, food and clothing for the upcoming school year. The total number of 3rd year students at Guixi Junior High School is approximately 198 students, most of whom are of the Qiang ethnic minority. It is our goal to provide stipends to cover dorm fees, cafeteria fees and provide for clothing for one year for as many of these students as possible. The total cost for said fees comes to approximately $350 per year/per student and includes annual dormitory fees, monthly food costs and clothing for one year. The fees are broken down per item in following posts.

The scholarship fund will be established and facilitated via the help of my friend and former student, You Caiguo – or, Ronald. It is through Ronald that I found out about Guixi Junior High School and a tangible way to reach out to a community that means so much for so many of us.

Our goal is to gather as much monetary support as possible over the next eight weeks, enabling us to send money directly to China at the end of August. It is our hope that this fund will encourage and invest in the futures of the students at Guixi Junior High School not only at this important and difficult time but also in a sustainable, long-term capacity in the future.

For more detailed information, we have created blog entries addressing specific aspects of the fund including who will benefit from the fund, where the school is located, how the money will be collected and sent to China, why we have chosen this particular school and area, and what exactly the money will be used for and will cover for each student.

Beyond this, we welcome questions, comments and/or suggestions!

Thank you, in advance, for your interest and support. We will keep you posted as to our progress!


Amy Vallance Phariss

Who We Are:

Amy Vallance Phariss is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served as an ESL teacher in Mianyang, Sichuan from 1999 - 2001. During my time in China, I taught English to college-level students at Mianyang Teachers College. Many of these students have become teachers themselves, often in smaller, more rural towns and villages throughout the province.

I have a BA from Texas Tech University in English and history and a MA in Asia Pacific Policy Studies from the University of British Columbia. I interned for The Asia Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies and worked as a research assistant for a international consulting firm and as a researcher for The Asia Foundation on the issue of human trafficking.

You Caiguo - Ronald is a former student of the Peace Corps volunteers who served in Minayang including Amy, Erin Mudd and Jill Baumgartner. Ronald now teaches at a local middle school in downtown Mianyang, and we all keep in touch with Ronald, hearing of his continuing education, his marriage and his plans for the future. He is a man with ideas. Ronald is most famous among the PCVs for his lists. All three of us knew the feeling of coming home from teaching to find a note taped to our door:

Miss Fan (Amy) - please provide a brief explanation for the following:

Bertrand Russel, Medicaid, The Beats, Rabbit Run, Synecdoche, Hyperbole, Non-Hero, Noam Chomsky and HTTP.

Ronald was particulary disappointed when I could not define HTTP.

When I began thinking of how to help and what to do in the aftermath of the earthquake, I immediately thought of Ronald. He has been a great source of information - unbelieveably reliable, quick to respond and thoughtful during a crisis of which he is literally in the middle. Ronald has provided useful, timely and updated information on the status of life in Mianyang and the surrounding areas, and has helped identify the students for whom this fund has been established.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


We have chosen the students of Guixi Junior High School of Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County because we have a personal connection with their head teacher, Jiang Wujun. When I reached out to Ronald and asked for guidance and input regarding ways in which we might be able to help in the face of this disaster, Ronald nobly suggested we help in Beichuan rather than Mianyang – where he currently teaches – noting that the people of Beichuan have suffered extensive damage and have fewer resources with which to address the effects of the quake. Ronald’s good friend, Jiang Wujun, happens to teach in Beichuan, and thus our connection has been made.

Beichuan county was hit especially hard by the May 12th quake. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, "Of all the towns in China's Sichuan province hit by the May 12 quake, none took it as hard as Beichuan. Although estimates of the death toll vary, the county governor has said that only 4,000 of the town's 22,000 permanent residents escaped that day. About 60% of the buildings in the newer area of town were flattened, as were 80% in the old section." Many evacuees have left the area and are being housed in large stadiums in Mianyang. It is uncertain when, if ever, they will return to their homes.

According to Ronald and Mr. Jiang, Guixi Junior High School (as many of the schools, homes and businesses in the area) was almost entirely decimated. The school will need to be rebuilt, a process that Ronald reports is already underway. The students whose homes were destroyed are currently either living with relatives or living in tents on the school campus. Ronald visited the students a week ago, and most were still living in tents, attempting to study and begin classes in these conditions. Many of the students have nothing left with the exception of the clothing they wore at the time of the quake. It is in these conditions that the students face preparing for the academic year, one that is particularly important for their futures. The 3rd year is a key time in the educational process for Chinese students, as Chinese education is compulsory for only nine years. At this point, students take an exam (Zhongkao); the outcome of this exam determines whether or not a student will continue on to the 9th grade, or high school. A successful score on this exam is crucial for the future of these students not only in terms of their educational future but also in terms of finding future work, etc.

We hope, through this fund, to invest in the futures of the students at Guixi Junior High School by enabling them to focus on their studies and exam preparations rather than worrying about dorm fees, the cost of food and/or clothing.


Guixi Junior High School

Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County – Sichuan province – China.

For a map and photos of the area and damage specifically to Beichuan, please see the following link:


Our goal is to establish a fund comprised of scholarship money to be used to assist students – particularly 3rd year students – with dormitory fees, food stipends and clothing stipends.

For the students of Guixi Junior High School of Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County, according to the Jiang Wujun (head teacher for the 3rd year students), the costs for dorm fees, food and clothing are as follows:

Dorm Fees for One Student for One Year: Y180 (approx. $22 USD)

Food Costs for One Student for One Year: Y2160 (approx. $270 USD)

Clothing for One Student for One Year: Y400 – Y500 (approx. $62 USD)


The fund will be established through the head teacher of the 3rd year students at Guixi Junior High School of Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County- Jiang Wujun. Mr. Jiang will distribute the funds to the students most in need as the 2008-2009 academic year approaches. The fund will be wired directly to Ronald’s bank account in Mianyang, and he will see that Mr. Jiang receives the funds.

Donations to the fund can be made one of two ways – either by personal check or via Pay Pal.

For contact information and Pay Pal information, please contact Amy Vallance Phariss at or write directly to

Donations are not currently tax exempt.


The recipients of the established fund will be third year students of Guixi Junior High School of Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County located in Sichuan, China. The students are the equivalent of American 8th graders, approximately 13 years old. The school has six grade-three classes, with each class comprising 33 students for a total of roughly 198 students total.

Ninety-nine percent of the students at Guixi Junior High School are of the Qiang ethnic group. China has roughly 50 registered minority groups including Tibetans and Mongolians. Closely related to the Tibetans, the Qiang ethnic group numbers roughly 300,000 and is located primarily throughout western Sichuan. Traditionally shepherds, the Qiang live throughout the area in tiny, rural villages often located in the mountainous areas of the Sichuan landscape.

According to our contacts in Mianyang, the Qiang students attending Guixi Junior High School often come from rural, agrarian-based households with little extra money. The impact of the earthquake on this area and the Qiang minority as a whole has been enormous. What little money many families had for schooling and education will likely now be funneled into simply rebuilding homes and businesses destroyed in the quake, not to mention addressing the needs and implications of losing so many family and community members.

For more information about the Qiang Ethnic Group and how the earthquake has affected the people, see the following links:,0,5261400.story