Welcome to the Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation’s 13th annual report.
2016 marks a special anniversary for us - it is the 10th year since the Foundation first started working in Hefei! Back in 2007, the first project we funded was “Good Books for All” where we provided quality books for several primary schools interested in reading. Fast forward 10 years, and these schools have made reading a core function of their curriculum, enhanced their libraries into a student favorite location in the school, and are vital members of the Stone Soup Happy Reading Alliance (SSHRA).
A lot of these schools are now considered exemplars for reading programs and receive numerous requests from peers who wish to visit the schools. As a Foundation, we are also keen to showcase SSHRA as a resource center on how to build a school reading culture and develop school libraries. As such, we organized a three-day Open Day event in Hefei, where 12 SSHRA schools opened their doors to visitors from around the country so participants could observe various reading activities or classes. It was followed by a conference where speakers shared on how to embed reading culture in schools. With the positive feedback received, we have agreed with the schools to hold similar events every two to three years.
Most members of the Board attended the Open Day. For some of us, it has been a number of years since we last visited Hefei, and the changes are substantial. The city is bustling, and the schools have expanded significantly, many of them have additional campus’ in different districts to accommodate the growing education demand. But the most obvious transformation is the amount of pride and confidence the principals and teachers had when they spoke about their reading programs or the library. What used to be uncertainty was replaced by a can-do attitude, and an eagerness to pursue new ideas for their libraries. We left with a warm feeling in our hearts, knowing that even if the Foundation could no longer work in Hefei, reading is so well rooted in the schools that the reading culture will remain there. Indeed, this is what the Foundations envisions for all the programs we support.
For reading to be so well rooted in the schools was in no small part thanks to the unwavering commitment to reading and library development by the Baohe District Education Bureau Director, Madam Chen Xuemei, and all the partner schools in the SSHRA. The backing of the Education Bureau has paved the way for the schools to train their teachers and grow their libraries. They also initiated the second round of the Teacher Librarian Training Program, which they are co-funding along with the Foundation. We do feel most fortunate to be able to work with such dedicated, forward thinking and trustworthy partners!
With the foreign donor regulation still in its earlier stages of implementation in China, the Foundation will continue to put our China grant program on hold for the time being. We will instead put effort into sharing some of the learnings that we have gained in our decade of operation. In addition to the Open Day and case studies, the Foundation published “A Pictorial Guide: Creating an Attractive Reading Environment”, which provides practical recommendations on ways to build a reading culture based on our experiences. The pictures used in the manual were all taken from the SSHRA schools, and the concepts are meant to be easy to implement.
Of course, not to be forgotten is that the Foundation also fund grants in Hong Kong and Ghana! Especially worth mentioning is the work that Playright is doing on the experiential learning front. As a follow up project to the successful play space competition for Hong Kong Tuen Mun Park, Playright is advancing children’s participation in inclusive play space design with the Junior Playground Commissioner incubation program. How exciting it will be for these children to have an opportunity to help design a section of their local playground.
Last but not least, the Foundation is humbled to receive the “2016 Family Philanthropy Legacy Award” at the inaugural Legacy awards. We are contented to be recognized for our contributions, and at the same time, is reminded of how much more we wish to achieve. A huge thank you to our board members, consultants and staff, who make it possible for the Foundation to keep pushing new boundaries.
Co-Chairs, The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation
James Chen and Cynthia D'Anjou Brown