A group of ardent youths were preparing to found an education aid charity. They set their slogan as “Transforming China’s population burden into intelligence resource”, and established working principles as “On-site Assessment, Direct Subsidy and Long Term Follow-up”. Aiming at raising up the seedlings, the charity was named “Sowers Action”. In November, the first Annual General Meeting was held. Though there were only 8 members, member structure and rules were carefully listed. Also, the Articles of Association specified that funds for education aids and operational expenditures must be raised separately.
At the beginning of the year, we met 7 friends who had just completed ‘Walk to Guangzhou’. We boldly proposed to be the organizer of this event thereafter. In September, the first “Sowers Action Walk to Guangzhou” committee was established.
The first “Sowers Action Walk to Guangzhou” set off in February, with a total of 30 participants. In the 5 days course, the participants started the walk from Hung Hom Railway Station to Guangzhou Tianhe Railway Station.
The first reconstruction school
Our first reconstruction project – Hanjiaping Chenjiajie Sowers Hope Primary School, was completed in Liangshuikou, Sangzhi County, Hunan Province.
The first One Million
We received a $1 Million sponsorship from Esprit Cares Trust, to facilitate education aid work in west Hunan.
The first part time staff
As the workload increased, we hired the first part-time staff in September to assist in charity operations.
Due to the rapid development in our charity work, daily workload exceeded the capacity of volunteers. Therefore, starting from August, we hired the first full-time executive officer for the charity.
Exploration for “Walk to Beijing”
Mr. Ronald Fung, a participant in “Walk to Guangzhou”, suggested that we could extend the route to Beijing. Our volunteer team completed exploration work for “Walk to Beijing” in August.
With the arrangement of Ms Tsang Pui Kuen, we had our anthem “Live My Dreams”, as well as “Step Out with Love”, the theme song for Walk to Guangzhou. We successfully invited the Cheung’s Brothers, Andrew Cheung and Peter Cheung, to sing the songs despite of a tight schedule.
Kick off of “Walk to Beijing”
Promotion activities for “Walk to Beijing” were held in September. In spite of extremely hot weather, we had nearly 3,000 friends helping us in creating a Big Foot together in Victoria Park, as a kick-off for “Walk to Beijing”.
The first Charity Golf Tournament
Dunwell Enviro-Tech (Holdings) Ltd., a company enthusiastic in public welfare, voluntarily organized a charity golf tournament in Shenzhen Mission Hill Golf Resort. All funds raised were donated to our charity to support education aid work.
As a celebration event of our 5th anniversary, “Walk to Beijing” started off in February. The participants passed through 5 provinces within 4 months, trekked over 2,800 km to Beijing, and raised a total of 20 million dollars.
Transformed from association to limited company
Originally registered under the Societies Ordinance, Sowers Action was transformed into a Limited Company. According to the requirements of company regulation, we began to report our charity’s operations to all members and the public in a more official and standard manner.
The first honorary director to fund operation funds
Given the shortage of operational funds, our charity nominated an honorary director, who donates HKD100,000 each year to fund our administrative expenditures.
The team is mainly responsible for reviewing school construction blueprints and assessing the quality of constructions, ensuring no shoddy construction. Meanwhile, specific duty teams were established, to comprehensively assess several subsidized counties, and to collate data of over 12,000 students, in order to help decide future subsidy strategies.
When the charity was founded, subsidy was focused in Guangdong and Hunan Province. With the rapid economic development in China, coastal areas and areas near Beijing-Kowloon Railways witnessed lots of improvements. However, the south-west and north-west regions were not benefited. As such, our subsidy strategy started shifting to Yongshan and Yiliang County in Zhaotong, Yunnan Province.
Organizational work for the first “Challenging 12 Hours” was completed in less than 3 months. The event was held on 26 March, at Wilson Trail Stage 3 to 6, with a total distance of 26 km. 500 participants in 140 teams joined the challenge. Given the success, the second “Challenging 12 Hours” was held on 22 October. Half-marathon was added, in addition, the route was extended to Stage 8 of Wilson Trail (total distance is around 38 km). This event attracted over 1,400 participants.
Give the accumulation of funds, it became necessary to enhance financial management so as to reduce financial risks arise from insufficient internal control. To prepare for future development, the Board of Directors proposed to amend the Articles in the AGM, to restrict board directors, unless authorized by the AGM, from signing contracts or cheques valued above 2 million Hong Kong dollars. Meanwhile, we established Sowers Educational Fund, to serve as a cornerstone for long-term development.
China Services Department organized the first teaching exchange program. This two-week English exchange program was held in March, in Sangzhi County of Hunan. Besides, we also launched a plan to support education in mountain areas, allowing teachers from Hong Kong to teach in any Sowers-subsidized schools for one semester.
In September, Mr Xu put aside his family and daily business in Hong Kong, went to Daguan County in Yunan to teach for half a year.
Vancouver Sowers Society of Education
Vancouver Sowers Society of Education (VSSE) was officially registered and established. VSSE is an alliance of Hong Kong Sowers Action.
Due to local legal restrictions, it is not easy for overseas “non-government organizations” to register in Mainland. After years of application, reviews, and multiple times of correspondence, our Yunnan office was established on 10 October. The establishment of this office demonstrates the legitimacy of our education aids in Mainland.
To raise public awareness of the deficiency of education resources in western China, we joined hand with China Youth Development Foundation, hosted the first “Long March for Education”, following the route of the Red Army’s Long March. The committee had started the works since 2002 and originally planned it as our 10th anniversary event. However, with the outbreak of SARS in 2003, we had reluctantly delayed the event to 2004. Participants started from Ruijin in Jiangxi Province in October, passed by Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, arrived at Wuqi in Shaanxi Province the following August. During the 305 days, participants passed through 10 provinces, 101 counties and completed a total of 8,038 km. This event raised over 30 million dollars, aided 125 schools construction in the counties along the route.
Matching with the national policy of “Two Remissions and One Subsidy”, our subsidies to students were changed to subsidizing students’ living expenditures.
This is a education plan launched in schools in Hong Kong, led by students and volunteers. Through diversified activities and exploration in mountain areas of Mainland, this plan allowed youngsters to experience the life of local students, to put education aids into practice, and to deepen their understanding of Mainland.
Subsidize a Girl’s High School
We learned through cable news that a privately run high school in Nanning is closing due to financial difficulties and many students need to drop out involuntary. After series on-site assessment, we decided to subsidize this school which caters to girls living in poverty, and many of whom are from an ethnic minority origin. Since 2010, the academic results of the girl school keep improving. Outstanding students were accepted by various universities, including United World Colleges, Asian University for Women, and some even awarded with scholarship for their study in the United States.
After more than two years’ preparation, we started off in April for “Ancient Tea-Horse Route Expedition”. As a celebration of our 15th anniversary, the trek started from Xishuangbanna in Yunnan, ended in Lhasa in Tibet. In more than three months, we covered a total distance of 4,500 km. The event attracted nearly 1,000 participants, raised funds of over 15 million dollars, which created another miracle in Sowers Action’s fund-raising activities.
After the severe earthquake, we initiated a school reconstruction project in disaster area. The project name, “No Give-up Even Earth Shattering”, manifested our long-term determination in post-disaster reconstructions. We also guided the community to pay attention to other disaster areas outside the severely affected areas. Approved on 22 December by the Steering Committee on the HKSAR’s Support for Reconstruction in the Sichuan Earthquake Stricken Areas, funded by the trust foundation, we subsidized the reconstruction of two 9-year schools in Zhongjiang County of Deyang in Sichuan Province. Teaching buildings, students’ dormitories, and dining halls were rebuilt in this project.
We learned from Ganzu Education Bureau that there is a privately run orphanage school in Madang, Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. After series of on-site assessment, we finally decided to subsidize this orphanage school.
Set up Perpetual Education Fund
Due to the lack of stable funding source for administrative expenditures, in straitened circumstances, it was even more difficult to raise funds for expenditures. The Board of Directors decided to set up “Perpetual Operational Fund” and “Perpetual Education Fund”. Gains from investing the principal of the funds can be utilized to cover administrative and education aids expenditures.
The 1-year “Sowers 512 Walk for Education”
Post-disaster reconstruction of Wenchuan Earthquake was arduous and lengthy. In order to raise funds to aid the reconstruction, we organized a 1-year large-scale fundraising event in disaster area. Named as “Sowers 512 Walk for Education”, the event had its slogan as “No give-up even earth shattering, children in disaster areas await you”. It started in May, and completed in May the following year. There were 8 phrases in the trek route, including Zhouqu, Huan County, Zhuanglang, Jingning, Weiyuan, Qin’an, Huining and Cheng County. A total of 491 participants joined the event, and a total of 7.37 million dollars was raised.
The First “Cycling for Education”
The challenging Silk Road was selected for the first “Cycling for Education”. Funds raised were utilized to purchase basic equipment, including books, recreation items and teaching aids, for schools in mountain areas.
“Outstanding Charitable Partner” Award in Mainland
At “the Hope Project’s 20th Anniversary Conference”, we were awarded as one of “Outstanding Charitable Partners” by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League and China Youth Foundation.
This year, “Cycling for Education” was changed to a specialized fund-raising event for our charity’s administrative expenditures. It served as a precious resource to cover the shortage of our expenditures.
For easier collaboration with Yunnan government and Youth Foundation, as well as better communication with other charitable organizations and partners, our Yunnan Office was relocated from Zhaotong to Kunming.
Extraordinary General Meeting to revise appropriation limit
Since costs of school construction continued to increase in Mainland, previous appropriation limit was insufficient to meet actual needs. In May, through Extraordinary General Meeting, we revised the limit to 6 million renminbi, expected to expedite the process of subsidy projects. Also, China Services Department was officially renamed as Project Funding Services Department. Pilot subsidy projects were launched in Hong Kong.
“Award for Charitable Organization”
At the “Hong Kong Service Awards” Ceremony hosted by East Week Magazine, we won “Award for Charitable Organization”. The award was accepted on our behalf by our Education Support Ambassador, Mr Nick Cheung.
“Return Visits to Sowers Schools” Program
As an evaluation and review of the past subsidy projects, this plan targeted the schools constructed before 2007, the year when consolidation policy was announced. In total, there are 540 such schools in 13 provinces, including our early focus regions, Guangdong and Hunan, as well as Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Gansu, where the long-term subsidized counties are located.
In response to the living requirements of orphans and underprivileged children in Mainland, we got the approval from the AGM to launch new subsidy projects for orphans. We hope these unprivileged children can have a stable life first, then with the conditions to go to school.
Launch of the Warmth-Trio project
Since high-cold areas in Mainland have frigid winter, the Board approved to produce 30,000 sets of scarves, gloves and beanies, as gifts to primary school students in high-cold areas, to keep them warm in winter.
We signed an official agreement with Yunnan Youth Development Foundation (YYDF). Under this agreement, we can accept donations from Mainland via YYDF’s account and issue tax-deductible receipts in Mainland.
The First Children’s Home
Under the Agreement in May with government of Shuifu County in Zhaotong, Yunnan Province, we registered and established Shuifu Sowers Children’s Home, the first children’s home operated in “Government-built, Private-managed” mode, and started to provide service in July.
The First “Walk for Children”
During Christmas, we organized a event specifically as fund-raising for Shuifu Sowers Children’s Home. Through the event, participants could better understand the life and needs of orphans and underprivileged children in Mainland. A 1.11 million dollars was raised, to be used as operational expenditure of Shuifu Sowers in the following year.
Supported by a group of volunteers and the Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, our local charity golf tournament was held in July.
“Sending Love” program
Following the Warmth-Trio project program, we prepared 10,000 two-in-one winter outfits for children in 40 Sowers schools over 4 counties in Yunnan Province, to help them to overcome the cold winter.
The model of Shuifu Sowers Children’s Home has been recognized by nearby areas. As such, we was invited by the government of Yongshan County, in Zhaotong, Yunnan Province, to jointly operate children’s home. In September, Yongshan Sowers Children’s Home was officially started to provide services.
Established Guangzhou Sowers Action Charity Foundation
Guangzhou Sowers Action Charity Foundation was registered and established in September. As an independent private foundation, it can be upgraded into a public foundation in two years, which can accept public donations and issue official receipts. The foundation was established to match up with the development of Hong Kong Sowers Action’s work in mainland.
On 1 January 2017, the law of “The People’s Republic of China on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations in the Mainland of China” came into force. Sowers Action has successfully registered in Yunnan Province as a legal “overseas non-governmental organization”.
The Outstanding Volunteer Award
Sowers volunteers, grouped as “Sowers professional volunteer Team”, submit a nomination to the 7th Volunteer Awards organized by the Hong Kong Agency for Volunteer Service. After a series of complicated and rigorous screenings and interviews, the “team” won the “Seventh Hong Kong Outstanding Volunteer Award” on 28 September.
Extend our education projects to countries outside China
In the Annual Meeting in October, the agenda of extending Sowers work to overseas countries was formally passed by the members. Myanmar is our first funding country.
For celebrating the 25th anniversary of Sowers, a fabulous charity dinner was organized to raise fund for Sowers operating cost and the educational projects in Hong Kong.
The 2017 “High Quality Activity Project Award”
Since the law of “Administration of Activities of Overseas NGO in the Mainland of China” is in force, Sowers strictly complied with the law and related regulations and actively implemented charity activities. For recognizing our contribution, we were awarded by the Guangdong Provincial Public Security the “High Quality Activity Project Award”
“Teahorse Route Expedition” Charity Walk in Myanmar
In line with the implementation of Sowers programs overseas, this year’s “Tea Horse” walk aimed at raising fund for subsidizing Myanmar projects. Participants joining the tour were organized to visit Yangon and Lashio projects in Myanmar.
Touching CSR Award
We received the Touching CSR Award from the The Association of Distinguished Corporation