Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Mar 31st
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Home Our Missions Mission of Charity Hopen in the Karst Hills

Hopen in the Karst Hills

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Hopen in the Karst Hills
The few who have escaped
A reunion
Working so hard for so little
Help from the outside world
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There is literally not enough dirt to go around. Not by a long shot. The rocky, karst-dominated landscape in Pingyan Township is breathtaking to behold, but it is also a curse for the residents there whose livelihood depends on their land--the soil, not the rocks.

Leaving their children behind at home to fend for themselves, parents go out of town to work, as jobs are scarce in Pingyan. Teachers trudge up and down the hills to round up wandering children who have skipped or dropped out of school. Then they scramble to secure financial aid to put the children back in school. The parents and teachers just hope that the children might have a chance of getting an education--their best shot to escape hardship and poverty.

Limestone features prominently in a karst landscape, leaving little soil on the ground. Unfortunately, limestone is totally useless for agriculture and produces nothing to sustain human life. Furthermore, it is tricky to farm the precious little soil that remains on the surface. Farming in karst areas must take into account the lack of surface water. The soil may be fertile enough, and rainfall may be adequate, but rainwater quickly drains through crevices into the ground, sometimes leaving the surface soil parched between rains. Imagine trying to keep water in a bowl that has cracks and fissures at its bottom.

Guizhou Province in southwest China has the highest concentration of karst formations in the country. This has made the province one of the poorest in the nation. Pingyan Township, situated squarely in the middle of a karst formation, is the poorest of the poor in Guizhou. The karst formations in Pingyan leave it with less than one percent of arable land, making it exceedingly difficult for residents to eke out a subsistence living, much less to earn enough money to send their children to school. Schooling has become something of a tantalizing luxury for many children and their parents.

The harsh livelihood that is so typical--almost a norm--in Pingyan has taught its residents the importance of education and skills. No skills, no well-paying jobs. It is as simple as that. Yet despite their strong desire to send their children to school, many parents simply can’t afford to. So their unschooled children grow up ill-prepared to compete for decent jobs. The same sad fate likely awaits their children’s children.


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