Already 5 years of expatriation in Shanghai! When I left my little village in the Provence, I didn’t think I would melt so easily into this megalopolis. Of course the first months had been filled with questions and hesitation but with the passing days and the encounters made, I can say now that I love this country and the mystery that it still possesses to me.
This mountainous region is characterized by its rice terrace fields and plantations of fir trees. In order to subsist, the families also farm pigs, cows, poultry and river carp but many peasants still have barely enough food to live on.
Every day women wear the traditional costume made of a dark blue woven cotton (dyed several times with indigo); the clothes are enhanced with embroideries that are transmitted from one generation to the next, thus carrying on the memory of the Miao people.
The roofs of the wooden houses are covered with black tiles or fir bark panels. One or several wells supply each village with drinkable water. Far from the cities and their racket, days peacefully go by in these secluded hamlets, protected by the surrounding mountains.
In theory, school is free and compulsory but it remains out of reach for many children, so most of the women are illiterate. The incomes of the families do not always allow them to pay school fees and when parents have to choose, they give priority to their sons. Furthermore, only a few schools are left in the countryside because of the government’s policy of recentralizing them.
Gaoliang, a hamlet of 900 inhabitants, counts 124 pupils divided into 4 classes of primary school and 1 kindergarten class. Mr. Pan, a school teacher, explains to us that “Some children have to walk through rice fields and mountains paths three hours everyday to go to school and come back, whatever the weather… but without education, we are worth nothing”. He tell us this while accompanying us to the chief of the village. And the reality of this part of the region is merciless: some ‘touts’ tell peasants’ children that they can work in the textile factories of Guangdong and earn in a month what their parents make in one year; teachers with tenure, graduated from university cannot set up in these remote areas because they do not speak the dialect; some children drop out of school because it is too hard to walk such long distances, sometimes even carrying their siblings on their back; and parents have to live far from their children to find a better job, and so on.
In December 2008, Françoise was on the eve of leaving for Paris where she had planned to celebrate Christmas with her family, when a fire broke out in her big wooden house. And this fire that she feared so much finally took her away.
Deeply saddened by Fang-Fang’s disappearance, friends, donors and sponsors sent supportive messages from China, France, Indonesia, the US, Australia and Brazil. In her memory and in the name of all the children, the association had to go on.
Marine Vitre, a young French woman, started to work for the association in October 2008 but she didn’t have the chance to know Francoise personally as the accident occurred one week before their meeting. When she was aware of the disaster, she went on-site ahead of schedule. Warmly welcomed by the local authorities and the villagers, Marine has now settled down in Danian. Her enthusiasm has already won the peoples’ hearts and the local authorities also have committed to carry on their support. Do not let yourself be taken in by this woman’s frail appearance; she proved her strong character and firm will by keeping the course of “Couleurs de Chine” in the right direction. One can say that she is an exceptional woman!This is ‘My China’
 Ethnic minorities in China benefit from a special law which allows parents to have a second child if the first-born is a girl. In fact, many families have more than two children, usually non-declared.
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