Guo Xin seemed destined for her job.
Before becoming a program officer for Mercy Corps, she did part-time work for local non-governmental organizations while a student in medical school. That work made her interested in a longer-term career in humanitarian work. Her chance came when one of her friends forwarded a Mercy Corps job announcement to her.
“I was surprised to find an international organization devoted to bettering the lives of poor Chinese families,” Guo Xin said. “And when I visited the website to find out more about the job, I was deeply impressed with the ‘Be the change’ idea.”
During her interview, her appreciation of Mercy Corps — and sense of serendipity — grew even more.
“I found out that Project GLOW was going to be implemented in Sichuan Province, which is my home as well,” she said.
Today, Guo Xin regularly travels from Mercy Corps’ Beijing office to the Project GLOW site in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. While there, she provides training to the local staff, monitors and evaluates the program’s progress, and just spends time interacting with the young women whom the project serves.
She recently took time to answer a few questions.
What is the objective of the Giving Leadership Opportunities to Young Women project (Project GLOW)?
Mercy Corps helped start Project GLOW to empower Yi ethnic adolescent youth, especially girls, in southwest China to improve their ability to earn a living wage, and to better their social, educational and health status.
When was the first time you visited Zhuhe Township for work on the project, and what were your initial impressions of the people there and of the area itself?
I first traveled to Zhuhe Township on January 22, 2007, in the midst of winter in the mountains. I immediately noticed that people there were very poor, wearing often-ragged clothing. Even in the winter, some of them didn’t have shoes on their feet. There were no trees on the surrounding mountains, which made the place even more desolate.
What are the biggest challenges for young women growing up in the area?
Young Yi women have very little chance to get an education at all and, as a result, have little chance to make important life decisions by themselves.
How is Mercy Corps helping young Yi women meet those challenges?
We provide them with literacy, health, life skills, and vocational training so that they can prepare themselves well for either migrating to other cities for work or staying to find good jobs and earn money locally. We also deliver HIV/AIDS and drug use prevention information to help them survive the epidemic disaster of AIDS, which is caused in large part by shared needles during heroin use among the local population
What do the young women learn at the training center?
The curriculum includes Chinese Mandarin, math, Yi language, health and life skills, agriculture skills, sports and physical education, recreational activities, and lectures about job skills.
How many young women are there now? How many more will be enrolled in the near future? How many teachers are there?
We have 87 girls now in the training center, and 11 girls are also doing vocational work in addition to their schooling. We plan to enroll another hundred students by the end of this year. There are currently eight teachers at the training center.
Is there a particularly heartwarming story you'd like to share about time you spent at the training center?
My best memory so far is dancing with our girls after dinner to make us warmer in winter. I could feel so much friendship and warmth. They are very happy at the training center, especially when they sing and dance. Our girls are really very bright; they just lack opportunities to make their potentialities into reality.
What are some additional things that Mercy Corps would like to do at the training center — and in the Liangshan area — in the near future?
We would like to help girls live and learn in a better-equipped training center, and to give them even stronger support to change their lives. We also want to share and replicate the successful experiences we’ve had with other organizations and schools throughout the Liangshan Yi region.
Is there a particular quote or phrase that describes your work with Project GLOW?
Work in Zhuhe Township and the surrounding areas is not easy, but it’s always exciting.