People I meet may ask “how’s the project going?”, as if all questions can have simple answers. My ultra-short reply would be something like: “It’s hard, but a considerable part of the children are making progress”. If people want to hear just a bit more, I’ll give them my standard list of those groups that thwart our efforts: gossiping villagers, including most of the children’s parents or caretakers, school teachers, and officials on various levels of the government.

True, this would sound a bit too negative maybe. First, more and more of the local people are realizing that we at Prop Roots Center are somehow doing good things, especially when this includes continuous psychological, logistic, and especially considerable financial support for their children’s studies. And some teachers and officials alike may now be realizing that what we do is right, though not always admitting this in public.

But there’s another counterproductive factor: the children themselves. What!?! Aren’t they just always cute and innocent, and happy about what we do for them? Well, it’s not that simple, especially because they grow up in a complicated environment.

One factor is the destructive power of the ubiquitous and dirt-cheap drugs. We have been helping some boys that had already been using yaba (containing meth) and other drugs before we got to know them, or during the few years they were out of our reach. Not only will they always fall back into the habit whenever they get back to their village, but also their mind structures are damaged. It’s difficult for them to feel happy, easily feel cold and miserable. To them it seems that only these drugs can revive them, at least for a while. If it suits their needs, they can heedlessly throw away the best job opportunities we have created, just to get back to their “precious”. Of course, this is a special category of kids, and we only have a few of them. (The others are out “in the wild”, never dare to come to Prop Roots.)

Another minor group is that of spoiled boys that have been making use of us and turn themselves against us whenever we cannot satisfy their demands. It’s just two of them, but they can be quite influential among the others. This is really annoying. Great story for later!
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For two periods during this summer, for 5 or 6 days each, Li Yang has taken some 15 of the teenaged girls out on special girl-only trips. These have to take place in picturesque places the girls have never been to, in specially rented guesthouses, with a lot of fun things to do. Taking them a bit further away from home helps creating a special atmosphere and also prevents them from skipping away. The girls really lack a lot of basic knowledge, not least sexual education, and the local society treats them quite unequally. Li Yang doesn’t urge them to stay away from boys, which would be just useless. But an important part, though, is teaching them how to detect disrespectful slags, a label that unfortunately suits most of the boys they know.

Quite some of the girls have a different kind of problem. All have former classmates that also do it: going to KTV (karaoke) bars and night clubs, where young and sexy girls are always more than welcome. It starts with just hanging out with not the right friends, but step by step they can develop into prostitutes. Some of the girls we have known for years and who should know better now, are STILL in this danger, lured by other girls that are out of control. They still haven’t realized the full content of this situation and to them these places are just cool and attractive and at least much better than their homes. Then they may discover they can easily earn some money there, in the beginning by just dancing or just sitting next to customers. Their parents, if they have any, often neglect them so they have an even stronger wish to earn some money of their own. One strange thing is that these girls even enjoy showing off of their night life in the social media, with no shame at all.
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China has A LOT of prostitutes and we now have some understanding of what kind of background many of them have. The risks of sinking to the bottom of society are many. Chinese prostitutes have no rights whatsoever and risk being beaten, killed or raped, also by corrupt policemen. Taking drugs also often forms part of this way of living.

One of “our” children (15) is now in direct danger and I must admit that we are really worried. We have to be very tactful, because being harsh will just be counterproductive. One good thing, though, is that some of this girl’s best friends do understand the dangers and might be able to help changing her mind.

Found it hard to find a piece of my music suitable to this worrisome story. Hope this one can work. No one is angry.