An Auspicious Start to a New Year
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An Auspicious Start to a New Year

In anticipation of the Year of the Rabbit, our China team gave two poor families a special reason to celebrate

The village of Donghan, China, which hosts OAT travelers during their Day in the Life experience, has two distinct faces: one rural, quaint, and traditional; and the other modern, comfortable, and decidedly more prosperous. This is a community in transition. In recent years, the vast majority of Donghan's 960 residents have left their traditional adobe homes behind in favor of larger, more modern structures. For those who have moved on, the new village symbolizes their progress in China's rapidly developing economy.

But not everyone in Donghan has moved to the new village. Some have remained behind by choice, unwilling to relinquish their traditional ways. Others simply can't afford to move. Whatever their reasons, the families who still live in Donghan's old village face daily challenges of poverty and inadequate living conditions. On January 27, 2011, our team in China helped bring two of these families a happy Chinese New Year during a day of community service.

The group of 42 volunteers—which included office associates, Program Directors, Trip Leaders, and a local ground operator—visited two different homes, bearing New Year's gifts of cooking oil, rice, cake, and candy. In one home, an 80-year-old woman has lived alone for many years. Widowed more than 40 years ago, she raised her five children on her own—and when they all grew up and married, she had no one to take care of her. The team helped her with some maintenance projects, such as cleaning, painting, and changing the window screens. "She is very poor and lonely, and she was very happy to see us," says Elaine Yau, OAT's Regional General Manager in China. "She will now have a nice Chinese New Year with our help."

They also visited the home of a couple who has graciously hosted many OAT groups during their Day in the Life experience. "They are in their sixties," says Elaine, "but they both look much older due to their poor living conditions." The couple excitedly showed off the many photos and gifts they've received from OAT travelers, some of which were sent all the way from the U.S. "They thanked our team for helping them, and also thanked our travelers for the visits," says Elaine. "They say our travelers will always be welcome."

To place the finishing touches on the day, the team headed over to the new section of the village, where OAT travelers stay overnight as part of their Day in the Life. They presented each of the host families with small gifts, and lit a "grand circle" of firecrackers in the village center, which, according to Chinese tradition, will drive evil spirits away.

It was certainly an auspicious start to the New Year for everyone involved. Grand Circle Foundation wishes a happy and healthy Year of the Rabbit to our China team and the people of Donghan Village.

Featured in our February 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.