Sowers Action 苗圃行动

Established in 1992, Sowers Action (Tax Exemption No.: 91/3859) is a non-religious, non-political and non-profit-making charitable organization in Hong Kong, committed to promote education aid in rural China by helping poor or disabled students to complete their education,reconstructing schools and facilities that fulfill safety regulations and improving the quality of teacher training. Emphasizing “On-site Assessment, Direct Subsidy and Long Term Follow-up”, we raise funds for education aid and operational expenditure separately to ensure donations are used effectively. Major fundraising events, including “Challenging 12 Hours Charity Marathon”, “Walk to Guangzhou”, “Long March for Education”, “Ancient Tea Horse Route Expedition” and “Cycling for Education”, are held annually to raise public awareness. In response to the nation’s changing needs, we have adopted an approach of “multipurpose educational aid”, extending our focus from hardware facilities to four major areas: special education, teacher training, student sponsorship, and school construction and facilities, with the aim of fully utilizing our donations and resources.

History

In 1992, upon return from a visit in Mainland China concerning education and education assistance, three Hong Kong young people were deeply moved by what they saw. They realized that the acute shortage of resources could never meet urgent needs for education development in some poor areas of China. Feeling that they could contribute to China in this respect, they proceeded to found “Sowers Action.” In the early days of founding, Sowers Action’s co-founders solicited donations from friends and families. Having successfully raised several thousand dollars, they returned to China to render the necessary education assistance.

Children living in those not-so-far-away mountains were equally naive and lovable. Despite their vivacity and intelligence, their families were so poor that they did not even have enough to eat and dress. As a result, children from families that could not afford schooling often loitered at the doorway of schools, trying to catch a few words from lessons given by teachers. Also, schooling in these impoverished regions was mostly conducted in almost collapsed buildings, inside crumbling and poor-lit classrooms. It was obvious that improvement was urgently needed. In view of the awful conditions, we could not help being moved by the teachers’perseverance in striving to provide proper schooling to their knowledge-thirsty students.
Our Belief

Education is the best cure for poverty

Our Missions

1. Providing the children obtain an equal opportunity on study and development through teacher’s training, students sponsorship and school construction and facilities
2. Promoting a platform for stakeholders to get in touch with national affairs

Our Core Values
1. Selfless
2. Simple
3. Transparent
4. Open

Multipurpose Educational Aid

“Sowers” symbolises student and school, and “Action” means active participation. We are committed to promote education aid in rural China by helping poor or disabled students to complete their education. We strictly follow our rules of ““On-site Assessment, Direct Subsidy and Long Term Follow-up”, making sure donations are used effectively and aiming to assist the development of impoverished localities in China with the view of enabling people there to become self-reliant. For years we hold a core belief that “Education is the Best Cure for Poverty”, and with the changing needs of the society, we have started to advocate “multipurpose educational aid”, extending our focus from hardware facilities to teacher training, student sponsorship and special education as well.
All Glory Goes to Our Volunteers

It is you who are open-minded enough to abandon your prejudice so as to seek common ground with others while reserving your opinions to yourself. It is you who are humble enough to put down your ego and regard education assistance as your main concern. It is owing to your consistent support in these 20 years that Sowers Action has been to continue its work until this day. Thank you, volunteers of Sowers Action! When Sowers Action was presented the winner in the Community/Public Affairs category in the “2006 Leaders of the Year Awards”. Its representative openly declared that “All glory goes to our volunteers.”
Awards and Recognitions

2006 – “Leader of the Year 2006”’s “Community/Public Affairs” Category by Sing Tao Corporation Limited
2009 – Named as one of the “OutstandingCommunity Partners” at the “20th Anniversary Conference of Project Hope”
2010 – “Best Partner Award” of the United Nations’ MillenniumDevelopment Goal (UNMDG)
2011 – “Charitable Organization Award” in the “Hong Kong Service Award 2011” organized by the East
Weekly Magazine
2011 – “Best Partner Award” of the United Nations’ MillenniumDevelopment Goal (UNMDG) for consecutive years
Differences Between Sower Actions and Other Charity Organization

Funds used for operational purposes are raised separately, any donation designated for educational assistance purposes will 100% be used for educational aids. Donations without specified purpose will be deployed to render educational aids automatically. All books and accounts of Sowers Action are open to the public for inspection. All donation income and accounts settlement are audited annually in accordance with law by the CPA firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Operational Expenses are Raised Independently

All donations received by Sowers Action are bound by our constitution and can only be used to aid China education projects, unless others specified.

Operational expenses are covered by incomes from our membership fees, bank interests and specific fundraising campaigns. Under no circumstance it will be drawn from the benevolent donations.

The majority of Sowers Action workers are voluntary, operational expenditure can therefore be kept to a minimum. All promotional and fundraising campaigns are self-financed and will be managed by balanced budgets. Even the work groups’ travelling expenses for services in China are paid by the participants themselves.

Besides, we try to follow in-house principle that suggests operational expenses should be 10% of donations received. People may feel that we are not willing to spend on promotion, and we will publicize ourselves only when there is fund raising event. So, it is very challenging for event’s organizing committee that they need to raise funds for their own operational expenses.

What are Operational Expenses

It includes project execution fee, administrative fee, fund raising fee and other related expenses. All these expenses are funded by membership fee, donations from Honorary Councilors, designated donations, event sponsorship, bank interest, and fund raising activities for operational expenses, etc.

Project execution fee are those related to educational projects such as sponsorship fee of working groups, mainland office expenses (staff remuneration package & rental fee, etc) and other expenses (such as purchase of teacher training materials).
Administrative fee refers to office and staff members related expenses.
Fund raising fee refers to promotional expenses of events
Other related expenses are related to foreign exchange loss and others.

Our First Pace

At the end of 1992, two founding members of Sowers Action silently went on their mission. After spending one whole day on the bus, they arrived in the impoverished mountainous regions of Guangdong Province (Qingyuan City Yangshan County), making Sowers Action’s first pace in education assistance.

Yangshan was a bleak and remote place with a limestone terrain, so this was no good for agriculture. China’s famous scholar Han Yu called this region “The impoverished spot under the sky.” Almost 90% of the population here consisted of impoverished farmers whose crops could barely afford to keep them alive.

Propelled by passion and faith, even with limited experience and means, the two pioneers of Sowers Action visited many primary schools and started to conceptualize plans for education assistance. At that time, thrilled with the initial encounter with an education assistance organization from Hong Kong, government leaders and school principals of Yangshan County could hardly conceal their ardent hope and expectation.

The First School

The original building housing Chenjiajie Primary School in Hanjiaping Village, Liangshuikou Town, Sangzhi County, Hunan Province was a two-storey wood structure erected over 70 years ago. The consistent lack of repair and maintenance had turned it into a Class I dangerous building. In 1992, a male student who, accidentally stepped onto a rotted floor board, fell through the second floor and became crippled.

The entire village decided to rebuild the school and turn it into a new building of 240 sq.meters, and the total construction cost came to RMB70,000. Even though all villagers had contributed their share, all they could come up with was RMB40,000, which sufficed only for purchasing construction materials. This led to the first on-the-spot investigation conducted by Sowers Action in August 1993, which resulted in the organization’s decision to provide the villagers with monetary assistance (RMB 30,000 Yuan, approximately 40% of the construction cost) and joint force with the County government to re-build the school with reinforced steel and concrete. The new school building complete with classrooms, boarding quarters, a kitchen and toilets was completed in April 1994. This became the first school the re-building of was assisted by Sowers Action.

In 1995, Sowers Action again assisted in building a wall around the school, repair the school’s main gate, pave the muddy ground in front of the school with concrete and turn it into a football field. The completeness of school had brought a sense of belonging to both the teachers and students.

The First Student Receiving Assistance

Yucheng County in Hunan Province was the first county where Sowers Action started its assistance work. This was a province-level impoverished county with better natural resources. There were over 50,000 children in the villages attaining school age, but the school-entering rate was only 92%.

During an initial visit to Yucheng County in 1993, Sowers Action’s work team visited Xu Lianghai, a lower-secondary student who had dropped out from school. It was found out that Xu’s father was suffering from persistent feet ailment, his mother was slightly mentally retarded and his sister had died the year before from lack of treatment as a result of poverty. Sowers Action hence provided assistance to Xu to resume schooling, making him the first lower-secondary student to receive assistance from the organization.

Unfortunately, in 1995, Xu’s father died. Xu was simultaneously obliged to tilt the duty-bound land left behind by his father, take care of his mother, and find means to repay the debt incurred earlier by providing medical treatment to his father and sister. Again, Xu was about to face the fate of dropping out.

After learning of Xu’s dilemma, Sowers Action again provided assistance to Xu. In 1996 summer, Xu Lianghai finally graduated from lower-secondary. In August of the same year, Sowers Action managed to contact “Friends of Light” in an attempt to pass Xu to their care. Thereafter, a work team was dispatched to Yucheng County to escort Xu to Guangdong Province’s Qingyuan City where “Friends of Light” was running a higher-secondary school for the poor. Xu was accepted by the school and settled there. Since Xu’s mother in Yucheng was cared for by the government, Xu could concentrate on his studies in Qingyuan.

The First Teacher Training School

To increase the number of village teachers, Sowers Action assisted in re-building a teacher training school in Sangzhi County for the purpose of providing teachers working in mountainous regions with the opportunity to undergo training, hence enhancing the advantage for them to remain in such regions.

Actually, there was a teacher training school built in 50’s, however, a fire accident in 1989 destroyed the woody school, equipments and books. The County tried very hard to raise fund for rebuilding of training school, however, it was still not enough.

After conducting rounds of visit in 1995, we decide to sponsor one-third of the total amount of construction costs enabling the reopening of school in 1995. Currently, the teaching training school plays a vital role in upgrading teaching quality, and there are about 500 teachers receiving on-the-job training every year.

Website: http://www.sowers.org.hk/

Source: http://www.sowers.org.hk/en/about.php