We hope this finds you well. It has been another busy year at the Soup Kitchen and as we descend deep into the hectic winter season this seems a good time to send an update of some of our activities. It has been some time since our last newsletter and we apologise to those of you that would like to hear our news more regularly but we concentrate all of our energies on providing service which means that regular updates tend to slide down the list a little. So for those of you that may have been wondering what we have been up to recently we hope that this newsletter will go some way to filling that little gap.
We have just completed our winter blanket distribution to the homeless people around the streets of Xi’an and we are now preparing to celebrate the Soup Kitchen’s eight year anniversary with our usual Homeless Christmas Party. This year’s celebrations will be a little more special as in Chinese culture eight is an auspicious number, bringing naturally about a period of reflection.
There were times during the previous eight years when it felt like a long bumpy road, but one that has got significantly smoother of late. The Yellow River Soup Kitchen is now established in China as a legitimate organisation as we were invited to partner with the local provincial government, the Shaanxi Provincial Charity Association. We have always been willing to work with the local authorities and whist it was critical to the survival of the Soup Kitchen that we can operate legitimately here, it needed to be with the right partner who understood how we work and whom we could trust, so we are very happy that we have this opportunity to work together with the Provincial Charity Association. Additionally this partnership has not compromised our core values, the way we operate or what projects we run, it benefits all and in turn secures the longer term future of the Soup Kitchen.
The Yellow River Soup Kitchen was the first Soup Kitchen in China but there have now been many others established around the country. Over the years we have collaborated with several of these including provincial governments within China that are also working to establish local government run Soup Kitchens. It has never been our desire to expand into every city in China, our focus has always remained on being the best we can be in all that we do here in Xi'an and perhaps along the way sow a few seeds. A model if you like for others to refer to should they feel it appropriate. This way, sharing our experiences with others enables them to start their own initiatives in whatever form they choose; the outcome is the same but it gives a greater opportunity to others and allows us to maintain our simplicity and purity.
In 2013 the Yellow River Soup Kitchen received two awards from the Shaanxi Provincial Charity Association for ‘Outstanding Service’. These were only received due to the years of effort that have been put in by all the volunteers. We are proud of these awards because this means that having navigated the bumps the Soup Kitchen is now accepted in China. So we thank them for both accepting and honouring us.
A Years Work
During 2013 we ran 176 projects taking over 10,000 volunteer man hours, this is a surprisingly high number of both projects and man hours considering we are a purely volunteer organisation with no full time staff. This could not have been achieved without the dedication of all our volunteers, many of them regular attendees, and in particular our team of managers.
Just a flavour of some of the projects we have run to date are as follows:-
Served around 130,000 meals three times per week at the Soup Kitchen
Weekly provide free hair cuts and distribute clothing at the Soup Kitchen to the homeless
Through our outreach programs to poor mountain villages delivered aid to around 50,000 people
Delivered over 100 wheelchairs to the elderly and disabled
Weekly provide free medical care and arrange treatments when possible
Provided a disabled homeless friend with a prosthetic leg, a job, apartment and a new life
Renovated a village school
Helped over 90 homeless people find work and street children return home
Each winter delivered to over 1000 homeless people around the city streets: blankets, woollen overcoats, wool long johns, winter shoes etc
Regularly run children's sports days in poor mountain villages and orphanages
Over 7000 volunteers have come to work with us and offer service
We have been distributing wheelchairs both independently and also in partnership with The Rotary Shanghai for the past three years. It is astonishing the change to an old lady's life who has not been outside her front door for 4 years, that the simple gift of a wheelchair can make and she then says that she can "now meet the sun again", or a young girl who has never left her bed for 6 years due to a spinal injury. To witness the whole family and volunteers in tears is impossible to describe with words alone. Over the past two years we have also been able to bring underprivileged school children from mountain villages and a local orphanage into the historic city of Xi’an and spend a few days visiting some of the main attractions like the Terracotta Army and even try their hand at pottery. Just a simple project but for children who have never left their mountain villages before it proves to be quiet a special few days for both them and all the volunteers.
Below is a short seven minute film showcasing just a few memories and the dedication of the volunteers from some of our projects in 2013. For those of you who may have tried in the past, our short films on the website can now be viewed on cell phones. (Please be a little patient if an advert runs first as it is the Chinese version of Youtube)
Despite the number of projects we run each year, after eight years we continue to run with zero overheads. We have no employees, rent or expenses of any description and during any outreach projects we carry our own food and sleep in tents if we stay overnight, ensuring that 100% of all donations go directly to those in most need.
That we continue to exist in this way is solely down to the fact that we are an organisation compiled of many like minded people working together for the service of those less fortunate. Common goals, working as purely as being a human being allows us is the powerful combination that is creating the change.
This past year we have changed several members of our management team allowing four of our eight long term managers to take a well earned rest, most of whom have been helping out at the Soup Kitchen for 5 - 7 years. The reasoning is that changing the managers gives the new group an opportunity to step up and learn how the organisation runs, whilst the outgoing managers still join in our projects and continue to support the new team. Hence strengthening the depth of the organisation as a whole. The four outgoing managers who have given so much for so long are Wen, Xiao Hai, Jie and Liu Laoshi, the new managers are Hai Chong, Hao Wei, Cai Lian, A Meng, Huang He, Yun Chang and A Cai.
A final thank you to all that follow our progress, support us from near or far or simply just think of us every now and again. It all counts and matters to us and all we serve, we are extremely grateful for all that is offered enabling us to continue to do our little bit in the best way we are able. We may not always get it right but we will always endeavour to be the best we can be.
"Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once,
but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach."
Clarissa Pinkola Estés Ph.D
Wherever this may find you, may you be happy, peaceful and healthy, and if you celebrate Christmas then seasons greetings to you and yours.
Best wishes always.
Yellow River Soup Kitchen