January 13, 2010 Filed under Community
By Li Zhixin
Nanjing International School (NIS), on the city’s eastern outskirts, erects a giving tree each Christmas. The tree is decrated with colorful cards made by rural students in Jiangsu Province. Each NIS foreign student picks a card to bring back to his home country during the holiday and mails gifts back to whoever’s name s on the card.
This practice has been going on for four years, but few foreign students and rural students know how the tradition began.
All the rural students are scholars of Pfrang Association, a Nanjing-based charity, established in 2000. The organization has tried to create hope from tragedy: the murder of Jürgen Pfrang, a manager at automaker DaimlerChrysler, and his family in thei Nanjing house when four young village people broke into their home to rob them.
After the four men were convicted and given a life sentence, a group of foreigners living in Nanjing decided to honor the departed by coming up with a solution to what they believed was the root cause of the crime: inadequate rural access to education. By the end of 2000, Pfrang Association was born.
“Pfrang’s money allows children to go to school instead of being mired in rural poverty, which affects so many across the country,” Julia Guesten, one of the organizers, said. The association hopes free schoolinill help poor rural students escape the vicious cycle of lack of education, unemployment and crime, and help them reach their full potential and lead meaningful lives.
“If the Pfrangs were still alive, they would be he first family to support the project. I think this is the most meaningful way to remember them,” Guesten said.
Since its founding, the organization has sponsored the education of 500 middle and high school students in rural areas, as well as provided them with money for books, clothing, food and other school-related expenses.
“As long as they have opportunities and the ability to work, they won’t think of committing a cri. They will do more things beneficial to society,” said Dominik Nowak, the association’s executive chairman, who credits Germany’s education system for helping him escape poverty.
“If it were not free, my parents cold not have afforded my educational expenses. I would not have finished my studies and found a job, let alone have the life I dreamt of,” the 29-year-old project supervisor of Baden-Wurttemberg International Econoic and Scientific Cooperation said.
Pfrang runs its scholarship program with the help of Amity Foundation, China’s largest charity, through a network of schools in Jiangsu’s Lianshui, Guanyun and Huai’an counties. ority is given to orphans, handicapped children, students from single-parent families and females.
Pfrang also holds two major fundraising events each year: the Pfrang Gala in April and the Pfrang Day in October, both held at NIS and supported by the city’s expatriates.