Dandelions of Hope: Story of Migrant Children and Leadership in Social Development
On Saturday June 2nd, scholars from Yenching Academy and Schwarzman College convened at Peking University to commence “Dandelions of Hope: Story of Migrant Children and Leadership in Social Development”, a forum to raise awareness about China’s 35 million plus migrant children. The event was remarkable not only because it was organized in conjunction with the Dandelion Middle School, the only licensed middle school for migrant children in Beijing, but also because it was the product of an inaugural collaboration between scholars and professors from Yenching Academy and Schwarzman College of Peking University and Tsinghua University respectively.
The event kicked off early in the morning when forty students from Dandelion School embarked on their tour of Peking University’s campus. The Dandelion students were welcomed to campus by eight Yenching scholars who had generously volunteered their time to showcase notable scenic points such as the Weiming Lake and introduced them to the history of PKU. For the Dandelion students, this was their first time visiting the most famous school of China and their excitement was almost palpable. Many Yenching Scholar tour guides took joy in the opportunity to play with the Dandelion students and were optimistic that their tours could cultivate greater educational aspirations within the students. For Yenching Scholar Al Muzaurieta, he found it meaningful to show the students around, with the hopes that they would gain confidence and aspiration to one day apply to Peking University. The Dandelion teachers later expressed their wish of having more students visit the campus in the years to come.
After the campus tour, guests began streaming into the forum. The hosts of the day, Yenching Scholar Jennifer Liu and Schwarzman Scholar Chris Ng, welcomed the first speaker Professor Lu Yang, Director of Graduate Studies of Yenching Academy, to begin the Opening Remarks.
After emphasizing on how the collaboration between Yenching and Schwarzman would be the start to a great friendship, Lu Yang welcomed David Qingzhong Pan, Executive Dean of Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University, to the stage, who subsequently shared his story of when he as a Tsinghua student would used to visit Peking University to meet who would turn out to be his wife. This story, he explained with both seriousness and a sense of humor, is why collaboration between Peking and Tsinghua Universities could yield great results. Shortly after, Guo Ming was welcomed to the podium, where he elucidated the challenges facing migrant and left-behind children, and the need for collaborative efforts from different players to address this overlooked population.
Soon after these speakers set the stage, Dandelion students performed a flute arrangement of Itsudemo Nando Demo from the hit movie, Spirited Away. The spectacular and calming performance stood in sharp contrast to the following bombastic performance by Dandelion’s saxophone and drums ensemble.
Rounding off the performance, two alumna of Dandelion reflected on their time at Dandelion and shared about the challenges they face after graduating from the school.
On the first panel moderated by Schwarzman Scholar Kayla Chen, Helen Boyle, the director of the Migrant Foundation, Weizhen Zhan, a children’s rights researcher at China’s largest public interest law firm, and He Jianyu, a professor from Tsinghua University, discussed about China’s current grassroots initiatives, noting that while funding is important, selecting the right volunteers with a mindset focused on those they serve is something that should not be overlooked.
After a refreshing tea break when Dandelion students, guests, and scholars interacted and chatted, the program continued with the second panel focused on future policies. Moderated by Yenching Scholar Chiang Longwen, the panel featured Professor Song from Peking University, Secretary Li of the Left-Behind mentorship initiative, and Guo Ming, a board member of the Dandelion School. The panelists analyzed the challenges facing migrant children and quickly entered into a heated debate on what solutions would work.
Following these panels of insightful discussions, the forum ended with a reception, where guests and speakers had time to interact with each other and with the Dandelion students, whom were proud to showcase their artwork that was on exhibition. For Secretary Li of the Left-Behind mentorship initiative, seeing Dandelion students’ artwork on exhibition in the forum emphasized to him the importance of cultivating creativity through art classes, something he hopes to bring to his own organization for left-behind children in Anhui.
Besides providing a platform for these meaningful interactions and though fundraising was not the primary goal of the forum, the event also raised over 2,000 RMB for Dandelion.
It is difficult to summarize how this forum has made a difference or how it will make an impact in the future, but for the Yenching and Schwarzman scholars, meeting the Dandelion students has humanized the often discussed and studied topic of migrant and left-behind children. For Professor Lu Yang who later shared his reflections of the forum on his WeiBo, his article garnered a record number of praise with a total of 750,000 plus hits and close to 3,000 likes, a reaction that clearly indicates how important the topic of migrant and left-behind children is to the Chinese audience.
For several scholars in the audience who are pursuing their research on migrant and left-behind children, attending the forum enabled them to connect with experts in the field and inspired new ideas and research directions. For the scholars from Yenching Academy and Schwarzman College, this inaugural collaboration has set a meaningful precedent and a hopeful tone for the continuation of this partnership for future generations of scholars between both institutions. For the organizing committee, this forum has emphasized the importance of collaboration and the power of leveraging one’s institutional networks and platform for creating greater social good.
After months of planning, the organizing committee is thankful to all the unsung heroes who have put in hours of time to run the event, some of whom include: Brian Drout and Ziye Wang from Schwarzman College and Kenneth Sng from Yenching Academy.
by Chiang Longwen, Jennifer Liu
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