Do you know that your calling today was already ordained and prepared by the Lord when you were small?
I have been involved in poverty relief for 17 years now. Looking back, I see God started the preparation while I was growing up!
When I was small, our family was poor and the six of us cramped in a space of 100sq.ft., and all my secondary school learning materials were sponsored by the school! Albeit poor, I had a happy childhood. Hardship taught me how to live with limited resources and I learned that a good living environment is not an entitlement; I also developed empathy for the poor.
I was an active and outgoing child, my school performance was not outstanding and I liked only sports and mathematics. But studying in a well known school, I had to keep a tight rein on my lack of academic enthusiasm in order to meet the school’s requirements, and staying with school was the only path I could take in those days. I often encountered difficulties and dejection, and failures were frequent. But these experiences produced a courage in me to deal with problems and difficulties. Later I discovered that such tenacity was exactly what a frontline worker needed. In the frontline, especially in new ministries, problems frequently crop up and many are often beyond one’s imagination. A worker must face them, and follow God’s leading so that challenges can be overcome and the ministry can grow gradually!
In my growing years my elder brother had much influence on me. He encouraged me to pursue my dreams, whether in choosing my study or my work. Therefore when I went to university I did not choose to study something that guaranteed a steady and sizable income, and instead I chose ‘China study’ which people at that time did not think much of. This subject helped me to acquire a good understanding of China, fairly unknown at the time, and I even got to meet the common people in Mainland China. A sense of identity was formed and I received God’s calling to dedicate myself to His ministry, making a lifetime commitment and offering.
Today, as you review your life and experiences, have you responded to the Lord’s calling upon your life?
Paulina joined CEDAR in 1999 to develop CEDAR’s first project site in China. She has served impoverished and disadvantaged communities in Hubei, China for over 14 years.
Yunxi County, situated in the North West rural areas of Hubei, China, an area constraint by limited resources and a place where many Huis (Muslims) dwell. From 2010 onwards, CEDAR carries out rural community development projects there: organising villagers to build water supplies system and infrastructures to solve years of water shortage problem; providing living assistance to the underprivileged and impoverished households, whose lives are disrupted by chronic illnesses. We help them increase family income through developing livestock raising. Thus far, we have reached more than 600 households.
‘I have bad health and our family is poor. I have to sell my cows to support my daughters’ education. Thanks to CEDAR that I can now raise cows and sheep again. The money we earn is enough for my family too,’ said Mother Ma who lives with her two daughters. In addition, Mother Ma and other villagers used the money they saved to fix the main road in their village, easing the daily travel of other people. The family of another villager, Mr. Ma, did not have much experience in raising sheep. In the past they only got 6 sheep. Through the animal husbandry training, the sheep in his family were being fed properly, resulting in the multiplication of present 34 sheep. The income they generated from selling sheep greatly relief their economic pressure.
In past 10 years, CEDAR work in partnership with Hubei Provincial Christian Council to serve the impoverished villagers, providing support in livelihoods development, education, livestock management. In all good and bad times, we have witnessed how God cared for the needs of the Hubei villagers and brought about changes in their lives and community.
Pray for the Hubei Community Development Projects:
Pray that God will prepare suitable fellow workers to build a team for this ministry;
Pray that CEDAR can work closely with local churches to help them expand their social services ministry and provide appropriate services for the community;
Pray that God will lead the local government to understand and recognise the value of church led social ministry to the community and will continue to support our work.
 CEDAR is an approved charitable institutions and trusts of a public character under section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. Please click Inland Revenue Department website to check for details. Donations over $100 are tax deductible in Hong Kong with our receipts. Please DO NOT fax any donation information.
Kalapara lies in the southernmost part of Bangladesh, where each rainy season causes great concern to its inhabitants. Memories of past typhoons and floods bring fear: lives, crops and houses may not survive the coming ones.
‘Our villagers are mostly illiterate and have no knowledge of disaster prevention, so any natural hazard would result in heavy casualties and property loss.’ High-school girl Mitu told CEDAR’s partner World Concern Bangladesh about her village. Last May the whole village was anxious about surviving the coming storms but the fight against the latest level-10 cyclone rewrote the villagers’ fatalistic attitude to facing disasters.
From help-less to self-help
It was a frightening event when cyclone Mahasen directly hit Kalapara with winds of 90 km/h, flattening houses along the coast. Yet after the cyclone, residents were nonetheless thankful, and the community volunteers felt greatly encouraged. The disaster prevention and mitigation measures learnt from World Concern Bangladesh over the past three years have come into good use.
When the Bangladesh Meteorological Department forecasted that the tropical cyclone along Bangladesh’s southeast coastline had intensified to a hurricane-strength storm and was heading towards the southern coastal regions of Bangladesh, World Concern Bangladesh immediately contacted the area’s Community based Disaster Management Committees (CDMCs), launched emergency responses including issuing flag-warning and broadcasting, and summoned volunteer rescue and first aid teams, as well as preparing several shelters to be used.
‘One single flag hoisted by the village volunteer signifies that a natural disaster is coming, two flags warn people to look for a safe shelter nearby, and the highest warning of three flags means people should hide their possessions and dry foods under the floorboards and then hurry to a safe place immediately to save their lives.’ Mitu is one of those who learned this flag-warning mechanism and this helps illiterate villagers to identify different levels of disaster and respond accordingly.
Before Mahasen hit, the CDMCs managed to evacuate 4,000 villagers in time and no life was lost. This experience made the Kalapara residents see how they do not have to be helpless and resign themselves in face of a disaster – casualties can be prevented through communication, organisation and collaboration.
From disaster relief to disaster prevention
India faces as many disasters as Bangladesh. In July 2004, India’s Bihar State had the worst flooding in 50 years, affecting nearly 10,000 villages and 21 million people. Years of flooding have made Bihar State one of the poorest provinces in India.
CEDAR’s partner EFICOR has over 40 years of disaster relief experience and knows well that many rural communities of Bihar State have for a long time suffered in the vicious circle between disaster and poverty. EFICOR realises from experience that mere provision of disaster relief cannot deliver the affected communities out of their dire straits.
Since 2003, EFICOR has tried to promote community-based disaster management, setting up CDMCs made up of 7-10 resident representatives. They then liaise with the local government to relay the villages’ disaster prevention needs as well as assist in planning the regional disaster prevention strategies. Further, young villagers are organised into five special teams of warning, rescue, first aid, shelter management and relief management. The communities’ disaster prevention and resistance ability is raised through training and regular drills.
Residents of Bihar State at a rescue drill
Facing relentless disasters, the villagers no longer just look after themselves and are not passive victims anymore. Through disaster management and mitigation training, the villagers not only learn to effectively prevent and fight against disasters, they also learn to work with each other and consider other people’s needs. ‘Instead of each person thinking about his/her own needs, the villagers now think about how the community as a whole might benefit. For instance, instead of installing hand-pumps in front of every door-step, villagers now consider installing the hand-pumps in strategic locations realizing that this would help more people during the floods.’ An EFICOR worker says.
From sighing to collective planning
Since 2009, CEDAR has directly started disaster mitigation and management programmes in China’s Yunnan, Hubei and Sichuan etc., giving disaster prevention training to the local communities, churches and schools. Villagers there who had witnessed many disasters often told us, ‘There is not a year without a disaster.’ This shows how they strongly believed that they could not resist disasters coming their way.
Disaster mitigation training aims to break this age-old thinking. During the training the people will usually find possibilities and resources within their own community and assess their potential disaster resistance ability; at the same time they review recent disasters and plot the months and types of frequent occurrences thereby working out feasible disaster prevention strategies.
A Yunnan pastor who attended the training told us, ‘In the workshop we found out that fire hazards were the most frequent in our community and happened a lot at a certain time. So during the dry season we have voluntary rangers watching out for forest fires. Further, since some villagers can only speak local dialects, special volunteers are appointed who would listen to the radio broadcasts during the rainy season and then give early warning of flooding.’
Disasters may be relentless but there is a bond amongst people. We are emotionally touched when we learn of disasters far or near and are often ready to help with relief. But prevention is better than cure, so let us walk with potential victims by taking the earlier step of disaster prevention and mitigation.
Joy at receiving aid, but the fight does not end here.
Hazard is something natural or manmade that can cause danger, loss or casualty, such as earthquake, flooding, storm, epidemic, war and economic crisis. A hazard itself does not form a disaster; a disaster is caused when hazard is coupled with environmental vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the inability of people to forecast or resist hazards and recover from them due to potential factors which can be economical (unstable livelihood / lack of credit facility), natural (deficiency in natural resources), constructional (flaws in construction designs / building on unstable slopes), personal (illiteracy / marginalised groups / chronic illnesses) and social (social unrest / bad leadership).
Disaster management includes a series of interrelated disaster risk reduction programs: disaster prevention and resistance, post-disaster rescue and recovery, and disaster mitigation. Disaster mitigation composes of long-term actions taken to reduce immediate and potential hazards and vulnerabilities so as to mitigate the impacts of disasters upon the community and the environment; actions include promoting disaster resistance education, improving social and environmental planning and advocating disaster resistance strategies.
[ ‘SHARE’ Sept-Oct 2013 – Myanmar – A Beam after the War Flame ] CEDAR’S BLOGGER
The 6.5 foot tall sculpture ‘Survival of the Fattest’ by Jens Galschiøt (who also made the Pillar of Shame) and Lars Calmar was exhibited in Hong Kong during the anti-WTO protest in 2003.
Author: Fountain CHIK, Programme Officer
I encountered the sculpture in 2003 and read its inscription: ‘I’m sitting on the back of a man. He is sinking under the burden. I would do anything to help him, except stepping down from his back.’ It has embedded in my mind and I have recalled it often.
Since 2006, either from a distance or close up, I started caring about CEDAR’s concerns. The skinny figure surged my mind as I met with the survivors of the Sri Lanka tsunami, the Hmong people of North Thailand who hold no identity, the impoverished farmers of Hubei, and the Bangladeshi slum dwellers. The figure shoulders a heavy burden, and although his back is straight, the load’s weight forces his head to be lowered.
The fat woman above him is blind to their dangerous situation: she is over-weight even to the point of threatening her own health; her ‘foundation’ is not steady either – top-heavy and fragile like hitting an egg against the wall; both seem to be in danger.
He is stressed, so is the fat woman; their fates are intertwined and tangled. The fat woman is hijacking the skinny man and both are at a dead end.
O Lord who daily bears our burdens  , You bore the sins of mankind but Your yoke is easy. You teach by word and deed and show the world a new way: ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ 
How we wish the fat woman would step down and share with the skinny man the scales of justice in her hand, and walk humbly together with God on a new path.
Fountain went on CEDAR’s Sri Lanka exposure trip in 2006, was with a Hmong tribal village in North Thailand on a two-month seminary practicum in 2010. He joined CEDAR in March 2012.
[ ‘SHARE’ Mar-Apr 2013 – Between City and Village ] FOCUS: SPECIAL TOPIC
Does city life meet migrant workers’ expectations?
Author> Alice KWAN Education and Promotion Officer
‘Running to’ the cities
Each Lunar New Year we hear news and see images of migrant workers in China cramming into public transport to get home to their families. This has been going on for nearly thirty years and this annual travelling back and forth is continuing. For the first time in 2011, China’s 690 million city dwellers outnumbered the rural ones, accounting for 51.27% of the country’s total population. 
Why do rural people flock to work in the cities?
40-year-old Mr. Liu, a deliveryman in Yunnan, says, ‘I came to the city for a better life; conditions here are better than the village’s.’
23-year-old Jin works in a convenience store in Kunming, ‘Home is a small place and prospect was not good… I live here each day as it comes… I want to see more and experience things while I am still young…’
Like other migrant workers, 40-year-old Mr. Liu, a deliveryman in Yunnan, seeks work in the city for many reasons, such as having a poor family, hardship in farming, backward rural economy and a desire to see the world.
Travelling in cities and villages
After graduating in late 1990s, I researched on labour studies in China. I waited outside factories in the Guangdong Province catching migrant workers coming out for lunch breaks to talk about their work and life there. They told me how they were forced to work long hours but wages were held up or often deducted by trickery, or how labourers injured at work were neglected and ignored. Questions came to my mind ‘Why did you come here? Wasn’t it a better life in the village? At least you would not be taken advantage of!’
After joining CEDAR in 2000, I went to Hubei, China, and visited different project sites; then I lived for a few years in a Gansu village working on a development project. As I got to know the people, I gained a better understanding of the tension they faced between village and city lives.
Once a villager pointed out to some newly repaired brick houses and told me that they were financed by migrant family members who earned money in the cities. As my informant lives in a ramshackle wooden shack; he looked both jealous and envious.
Village life has become even less secure in recent years because of uncertainties of climate change. When farmers sow seeds in springtime they cannot be sure if there would be much harvest in the autumn. Young people have all left the village and the remaining adolescents wish they will soon look old enough so that they, too, can leave and travel far.
Travel between cities and villages helped me see the tension villagers face.
‘Staying behind’ in the villages
So is there nothing in the villages to keep the people there? There is such a great urge in them to leave!
Not necessarily. I chatted with a young mother who came home for Lunar New Year. Soon she was in tears because her two-year-old did not recognise her and clung to the grandparents only. She could not believe that while she had left home to improve the family’s situation, she would in the end lose her family. There are those villagers who have tried by all means over a long time but still failed to recover hard-earned wages owed to them.
As a development worker, I always hope that whether the villagers have decided to stay or leave, CEDAR’s rural community development projects will give them timely help and more room for choice. I believe that urbanisation is not the only way for development and parents need not leave their children behind to go and work elsewhere. Even in villages people can explore possible development plans through projects such as husbandry breeding, organic farming, making fair trade handicrafts and setting up farmers’ cooperatives.
In winter women earn money making fair trade handicrafts.
It has been over 30 years since China’s reforms and opening up, and the first generation of migrant workers are now middle-aged; many of them have chosen to return home because of their age, family, and the government’s new rural policy.
49-year-old Gansu villager Zhang Zi-sheng says, ‘I worked in the city for over twenty years and I am now back home to devote myself to developing breeding and farming.’
48-year-old Hu Yun-jie from Hubei says, ‘I had been to many places and in the end I feel that home is the best place for my future; I can both look after my family and develop my village, here I can fulfil my parental responsibility of raising my children. Now that the Chinese government has quite a good rural policy and there is prospect for rural development; I am very hopeful for the future.’
35-year-old Tan Feng says, ‘I had gone away to work before, but I have decided to come back because my parents are getting old but my child is still young and needs looking after.’
Zhang Zi-sheng, a returnee, wants to restart farming.
‘Watching over’ migrant workers
As there is still a difference in the wages and development prospects between cities and villages, despite the hardships involved many are still migrating to cities.
30-year-old Ms. Li, now a waitress, followed her husband from Hubei to the city. ‘I left home for the sake of my children and family… I made the decision but I do not like it… I am not happy, there is no freedom working here, I don’t have my dreams and I have to listen to people’s orders.’
35-year-old Mr. Liu works in a supermarket in Kunming, Yunnan, ‘I had little choice but to work here. If something happens I will be left with nothing and no protection.’
As a socialist country, China’s labour regulations are very comprehensive but enforcement is slack. Apart from exploitation and unfair treatment, China’s household registration system also makes migrant workers second-class citizens, which means that regardless of how much they have contributed to the cities they are not eligible for medical treatment or children’s education benefits. Many migrant workers cannot adjust to the urban lifestyle, often homesick, and missing family. It is difficult for them to enjoy living in the city in cramped conditions.
Alone and away from home, it is very important that fellow villagers can support and watch out for each other when challenges, difficulties and disappointments arise. Currently CEDAR is actively promoting migrant workers projects, providing pre-departure training, teaching them labour rights based on past cases to raise their civic awareness. CEDAR also plans to set up networks so that migrant workers from the same or a neighbouring village support and help each other.
Today I do not get to walk around industrial sites or visit villages often, but I still bless those who travel between city and village. There are numerous possibilities between the two and I hope that they actually have the freedom to choose, and have a fair share of the fruits of development. I hope their lives will be happy and enriched, whether they be in the city or village.
For Further Action
If you care about migrant workers in China, you can: