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Our Charity of the Month: Shanghai Sunrise, Helping Kids Finish School

This month, a group helping underprivileged students make it to higher education and beyond.
2019-10-08 14:39:10
Photos: Marc Ressang
In SmartShanghai's quest to be a better citizen (corporate or otherwise), we are highlighting charities and NGOs who are doing good for people who need it, in China.

In Brief: Shanghai Sunrise raises funds for scholarships for underprivileged students in Shanghai.

The Problem: Education in China is only free until the age of 15. In public schools across China, many teenagers are unable to complete high school or reach college because of financial limitations.

Their Mission: Breaking the cycle of poverty in Shanghai by empowering students through education.

How They Got Started: In 1995, English TV journalist Charlotte Ashby was in Shanghai for a work assignment. While staying in the Hilton hotel, she noticed that there were children playing on the streets at all hours of the day. Wondering why they weren’t in school, she asked around and discovered that they were simply unable to afford the school fees.

She organized a group of friends in an effort to help. However, with the lack of local knowledge and connections, they found it difficult to take the next step. They received feedback in conversation with the Hilton General Manager — he said their efforts were admirable, but unsustainable, and put them in contact with the Shanghai Charity Foundation.

Shanghai Sunrise was officially registered in 1996, and started with a variety of projects. They changed focus when the government introduced the compulsory, government funded nine year education policy. Since then, they have focused on sponsorships for high school and university students.

They have raised over 30 million rmb and facilitated over 11,000 scholarships. Currently, there are around 100 sponsors working with around 400 students.

What They’re Doing: Overall, facilitating relationships between sponsors and students. However, the process is complex.

First, they find ‘low income families’ through their collaboration with Shanghai Charity Foundation. These families generally receive minimum wage income, or are otherwise financially burdened, often due to chronic or terminal illness. Volunteers personally visit families’ homes and confirm the need for sponsorship. In the last three months alone, they have visited over 180 families, across ten districts in Shanghai.

Next, they reach out to sponsors. There are three categories: individual, corporate, and civic sponsors. They are introduced to students through the annual Pairing Ceremony in November, where they are given the opportunity to meet and interact with the person(s) whose education they are funding.

Finally, there’s the follow-up. In April, there’s a Take-Your-Student-To-Lunch Day, where sponsor and student share a meal and catch up. Students also write letters to their sponsors and update them, and English-Chinese translation is provided where necessary. Long-term relationships are established, and the positive outcome of the donations is seen firsthand.

Shanghai Sunrise is unique in their promise that 100% of sponsorship donations are allocated directly to the sponsored student. These means that all of the coordination and fundraising work is done by a group of dedicated volunteers, both local and international. Fundraising events aim to raise operational costs — recently, they range from wine tastings with Wine O’Clock to collaborations with the Girl Scouts.

This is a small group of people in Shanghai who are passionate about the impact of educational opportunities in changing a person’s life. Ding Yuying, their longest-serving volunteer, is over 70 years old and still leading the team responsible for field visits.

Their work over the last 20 years is leaving its mark. In fighting to break the poverty cycle, Shanghai Sunrise is creating a new cycle of education. The first generation of sponsored students — now doctors, accountants, mechanics — are coming back today as sponsors themselves.

How To Get Involved: The most immediate, impactful way is to sponsor a student. Average costs are about 2,500rmb per semester of high school, More information on their sponsorship options is available on their website. Individuals can volunteer in their area of strength, such as for event planning, translating, or local community outreach. Those with IT or marketing backgrounds are also very welcome to join the team. Corporations, civic organizations, and schools can contact Shanghai Sunrise about donations or fundraising events.

How To Contact Them: Through their website (here) or their WeChat Official Account (ShanghaiSunriseSHSR).

Looking for more charities and support groups? See our Community directory right here.