Camp pro­grams teach value of hard work

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HE DAN in Bei­jing CHEN HONG in Shen­zhen

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. and chen­hong@chi­ 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.

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