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Mr. Ge Jun Brings his Dream to the CEA Global Campus in Shanghai

  Last month we had a great lecture given by Mr. Ge Jun - an elementary school teacher from a remote mountain area in Guizhou.

Mr. Ge Jun is one of my most respected friends. I first met Jun in an international business class in Beijing 11 years ago. Jun was a non-registered student from a remote village in Guizhou mountain area, and worked as an employee of our school doing almost any type of job that you could think of: copying documents, delivering mail, cleaning classrooms, etc. In return, the school allowed him to sit in the classes. The courses for him were hard – the majority of our books and cases were in English, a language of which he had very little knowledge. 

As if that challenge wasn’t enough, Jun had to work even harder to survive the high living costs in a big city like Beijing. I once saw him standing under the sun in 100 degree weather to disperse advertising cards – such jobs could bring Jun RMB 20 ($3) for eight hours. He lived in the dark basement of a building, but sometimes he had no place to stay and couldn’t even afford a meal. However, Jun still came to class every morning with homework in hand and a bright smile! 

Eventually, I heard about Jun’s incredible life story and about his dream. When he was six years old, Jun had to walk two hours to his elementary school and another two hours back home every day. When he started middle school, his walking commute time increased as he walked eight hours to his middle school and another eight hours back every week. To save money on books, he only ate lunch at school and fought hunger every day. 

  Though he was top ranked in his class every year, Jun had to drop out of high school due to his mother’s sickness. Despite this obstacle, Jun still viewed himself as lucky because many kids he grew up with had never even had the chance to receive schooling on any level. Regardless of his abruptly shortened high school career, Jun was lucky enough to find a teaching job in his former elementary school while his mother was ill. 

Based on his life experiences, Jun decided that his ultimate life dream would be to build an elementary school in the mountains for the children that live there. He moved to Beijing for this purpose so that he could start earning the RMB 200,000 it would take to build this school. 

After learning about Jun’s story and dream, I was touched but honestly believed Jun would be changed by the big city. Like other young people coming from small towns, I predicted that Jun would want to stay in Beijing, find a stable job, buy a house and start a family.

However last month, after spending 11 years living and working in Beijing, Jun came to CEA Global Campus to give CEA students a speech about his hometown, his study experience and his dream – the same dream I learned about 11 years ago. He still wore the hopeful, confident smile that he had the first time I met him. 
  We happily learned that Jun has already saved RMB 300,000 for building the elementary school in the mountains, which will in turn benefit about 100 children. Because of inflation, Jun’s original budget for building a school increased from RMB 200,000 to RMB 600,000. Though he still has a ways to go in raising the money he needs, Jun will start the construction next year and in the mean time find funds from other government and business resources.

And, guess what? The lecture he gave was delivered in English – fluent English! (Jun studied and learned English totally by himself!) Thanks to Jun’s speech, CEA students received the chance to learn about life outside China’s big cities, and to make friends with a hard-working, life-changing Chinese person.

After the speech, the CEA study abroad program in Shanghai Global Campus donated 100 backpacks to Jun’s school. We’re hoping to be some of the first English teachers for the children in the future.

Yan Liang is the Program Director of the CEA Global Campus in Shanghai.
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