HENAN PROVINCE, China – According to the most recent census, China is home to over 100 million children aged six and younger. They alone would constitute the 12th largest country in the world. As part of its community and social responsibility activities, Nokia has been taking action to improve the lives of children in rural China by improving schools and education in remote rural communities. The project, called “Heart to Heart, Hand to Hand” (H2H), was initiated by Nokia China in 2008.
Research shows that the first six years of a child’s life are critical for development. China’s cities have understood that message and are taking action, but children in rural areas have fallen drastically behind. Very few infants in rural areas receive proper early childhood care. Only two out of every ten children in rural areas will attend high school. Of those two, only one will go on to receive a college degree.
At the start of the project, Fu Lei, Director of CSR, Nokia China, said: “[From earlier research] we realised the importance of early childhood education, and the insufficient facilities and resources in rural China. It is our opportunity to give back to society and to connect more Chinese people with our knowledge and resources”.
By giving these children a better environment and education opportunities, Nokia is giving them a chance for a better future. With concrete actions – including kindergarten renovations – it is making a difference.
The Zhaocun kindergarten (pictured) is just one example of the kindergartens supported by Nokia in rural China. Through the H2H project, Nokia has already helped over 110,000 children, 3000 teachers and over 136,000 parents or local facilitators.
Working with nongovernmental partners, the H2H project has been rolled out in six rural counties in Shaanxi, Gansu and Henan, the provinces with lowest income and GDP. The goal is to repeat this work in a total of 24 counties.
Sabrina Feng, who has worked closely on the project, tells her own story:
“Kongtong, Zhangjiachuan, Shangcheng, Lushan, Baihe, Changwu, Luanchuan, Jingyan, Jiangyong, Yuexi, Huoqiu and Wuyi are all remote counties in China. Each year, these places receive very few outside visitors. If it were not for the H2H Project, it would have been very difficult for us to travel there. Of course, without the project, we also wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet such an incredible group of kids and teachers. On June 30, Nokia volunteers, including employees and media, visited Zhaocun Kindergarten, located in Lushan County, Henan Province. Here, we witnessed first-hand the achievements of the project.
“Nokia invested RMB 60 million in 2008 to launch the project. The project is built around the need to provide children in rural areas with proper early childhood care and education so they can have a healthy, happy, and bright future. To help satisfy this need, the project provided early childhood support with both hardware and software.
“Hardware is all things visible and tangible. Architects from the South China University of Technology designed beautiful new kindergartens and Nokia provided “child-friendly” living and entertainment equipment for each kindergarten.
“Software refers to the training created by experts from Beijing Normal University and the Capital Institute of Pediatrics. Healthcare professionals, teachers, parents/caregivers, officials and scholars were all given access to the training. Although this portion of the project didn’t have a physical product, its success can clearly be seen in the way people interact with the children. With the right ideas, people can always do the right thing.
“At present, the H2H Project has been rolled out in six rural counties in the Shaanxi, Gansu, and Henan provinces in China. In its pilot phase, 270 kindergartens and ECCD (Early Child Care and Development) centres were established or renovated; 3,080 teachers, healthcare professionals and government officials received training and 136,706 parents and caregivers were educated on the importance of ECCD. These newly trained individuals have already helped to change the lives of 112,923 children by providing professional ECCD services. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide ECCD services to more than 380,000 children in 24 counties.
“This task is easier said than done, because it requires implementing major changes to China’s pre-school education system. However, when corporations, governments, NGOs, academic institutions, communities, pre-school teachers, healthcare workers, and other social forces work together, it can be accomplished. On this day, it was over 30°C in Henan. We were drenched in sweat as we delivered books donated by Nokia. Thanks to the air conditioner in the children’s classroom, though, we could play a game with them called ‘Finding Friends’.
“All things considered, we know that during this journey we are bound to continue finding many new friends. But more importantly, we will continue discovering hope”.