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More than 80 friends of SQR, some of them volunteers past and present, many of them major donors to the project, gathered at the Bookworm early in the morning and travelled with us from Chengdu on buses kindly provided by EtonHouse and QSI international schools, to join the staff and students of the kindergarten together with parents, government officials, and representatives of local grassroots NGOs working in the region.
Shortly before eleven o’clock, SQR founder Peter Goff got the proceedings off to a start with a warm welcome to everybody before introducing school principal Kang Yuling, clearly overjoyed at being able to personally thank the donors responsible for funding the rebuilding of the school to which she has been dedicated for so many years. Speeches were given by Paul Sives of the Chengdu branch of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, Zhao Yong of the British Chamber of Commerce South West China, Smile Luo of Cargill, Kim Dallas of the Chengdu International Women’s Club, and Roland Catellier of Disaster Relief Shelters Foundation, all of whom made significant donations without which the project would not have been possible.
While the speeches were taking place, international and local children were having fun and games together in the classrooms and on the new playground equipment, run with the help of teachers from EtonHouse.
Traditional firecrackers sounded off as donors, officials and SQR board members gathered to unveil the brass plaque displaying the names of all those instrumental to the project — and were treated to an impromptu shower of champagne (all right, it was sparkling wine).
With the formal opening complete, the Shangri-La Hotel’s resident band Solidaz struck up and treated everyone present to a fantastic set of their favourite songs. Those that weren’t busy dancing or admiring the new facilities were tucking into a delicious mixed buffet lunch of local Chinese dishes and western barbecue burgers and hot-dogs donated by KC Meats.
With appetites sated and spirits high, SQR board member Catherine Platt introduced several organisations with whom we will be partnering over the coming months: Rainbows After Rain, Handicap International, Global Village, and NPI. We also heard from two grassroots groups that have been working in the Guangji area: Minle Village Farming Cooperative and Shuxiang Embroidery Association. These are examples of groups that will be able to take advantage of training and resources available at our community centre over the coming year in order to build their own capacity to develop projects. Chengdu Sports Aid coordinator Collette McGuire also outlined the direction of CSA over the next few months.
With a few more songs from Solidaz and a final performance from the kindergarten students drawing the event to a close, the day was declared an overwhelming success. SQR would like to thank everyone who participated in the activities, and those who contributed to the smooth running of the programme — in particular Catherine Chen for co-hosting, Tracey Boyle and the staff of EtonHouse, William Hall, Steve McNulty, Katherine Noll and the staff of QSI, Fred Thompson, and Helen Yang of the Bookworm.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the 140 students currently enrolled, and those who will attend in the years to come, now have access to a much expanded, safer, more hygienic, more secure school. The villagers who live in the surrounding area will be able to take full advantage of an insulated, earthquake-safe community centre for social events and community education sessions. The local grassroots organisations that are developing their own projects have full access to the same resources. As much as the Sunday event marked the completion of one project, it also celebrated the launch of SQR’s new community centre project, and our continued involvement in the lives of those still affected by the earthquake.