Camp programs teach value of hard work
Summer camp programs that put urban children to work for poor rural families have become popular among some parents.
Chen Zhenhong, a Youth League official in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district, said the summer camp program, started in 2000, allows urban children to live and work for a week in poor rural areas .
“In Shenzhen, children are not willing to go out during hot summer months. They stay indoors watching TV and playing computer games,” Chen said.
“We want to provide an opportunity for them to get in touch with the outside world and do more physical activities.”
From July 15 to 21, 34 students from the district spent a week of their summer holiday in Shixia, one of the most impoverished villages in Guangdong province.
“We matched them with 20 rural families, where they worked about two to three hours a day in the fields, harvesting peanuts and cutting weeds,” he said. “Host families also assigned domestic chores such as cooking and washing dishes.”
In their spare time, the kids were encouraged to get to know local children and some of their leisure activities, such as picking wild flowers and counting stars, he added.
Chen Lirong, a student from a Shenzhen vocational school, said he no longer stays up late at night after the camp.
“During vacations, I slept whenever I wanted to. Sometimes I was still surfing the Internet or playing video games at 3 am,” he said.
When Chen was at the village, he had to go to bed at 9 pm for a good night’s rest. Otherwise, barking dogs and a crowing rooster would wake him up early in the morning.
Chen Zhitong, a 14-year-old girl from Shenzhen, said of her experience living and working with a rural family that her palms were full of blisters after her first day harvesting peanuts.
“We had to pull the roots of the peanut plants out of the soil by hand, and once I pulled out a big insect and was frightened out of my wits and fell to the ground,” the junior high student said.
Chen’s host family also gave her the task of making the fire for cooking.
“I never did that in my whole life,” she said. “It took me an hour to figure it out, but finally I made it,” she said.
Chen’s mother, who only gave her surname as Pan, said her daughter was “a lazy bug” at home who lounged in bed and did little housework.
“She is the only child in the family, so in the past no matter what she asked for, we would try our best to satisfy her,” Pan said.
“I wanted her to experience the tough life in a village, let her appreciate and treasure her life at home,” Pan said, adding that she found her daughter hadn’t changed much as old habits die hard.
However, recent reports of summer camp conditions have stirred controversy among parents.
A mother who signed her son to a military-training summer camp in Guangzhou said a coach at the camp forced children to stand in the rain for hours and slap each other in the face for punishment, Nanfang Daily reported.
Cong Zhongxiao, director of the China National Children’s Center, said parents should create opportunities for their children during summer vacations to become more independent and improve their problem-solving skills.
“It’s important that these activities are not harmful and will not have a negative impact on the children’s physical and mental development,” she said, adding that parents should pay more attention to providing a healthy lifestyle for their children. Contact the writers at hedan@chinadaily. com.cn and firstname.lastname@example.org Wang Yun and Zhu Jing in Shenzhen contributed to this story.
Chen Lirong, a student from Shenzhen, does farm work during summer camp in a rural village in Guangdong province.