Soccer project puts left-behind kids in spotlight

By Zhu Lixin | China Daily | 2017-10-27 07:22

I will always stay true to my original mission to help rural children

Huang Yujia, a student at the Shanghai American School who founded Youth Spotlight.

In 2015, I was watching TV at dinner time, when I saw a news story about four siblings-"left behind children"-in Guizhou province who had committed suicide. I was shocked.

A note written by one of the children was found at the scene: "I know you care about me, but it's time for me to go. Death has been my dream for many years."

What kind of lives must those kids have been living for them to kill themselves?

Being a privileged girl growing in a teeming metropolis with my parents, I had never even heard the term "left-behind children" before. Eager to find out more about such children, I searched for all the news articles and books I could find on the issue.

After reading lots of books and research papers as well as briefly interviewing 20 left-behind children over a span of almost a year, I was surprised that I was still at a loss when someone asked me to tell them about left-behind children.

I knew they were lonely, I knew they missed their parents, but I did not truly understand their struggles and thoughts. I only knew that I was fortunate to enjoy luxuries such as salmon and ribs because my father made sacrifices to ensure I didn't experience the poverty he did when he was growing up.

Somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I knew that it was time for me to lend a hand to China's future generation, just like my parents did for me.

After talking to left-behind children about their passions and also speaking with their teachers, I decided that Youth Spotlight would be a movement to bring warmth to left-behind children and make up for the childhoods they have lost.

Lonely and deprived of regular communication with their parents, many of them are bored and shy. Youth Spotlight is about changing that through soccer, a sport that's rapidly growing in popularity in China.

I recruited six students and began planning the first Youth Spotlight soccer team.

From fundraising online to designing soccer kits, we engaged with work that brought us joy. Finally, in November 2016, the first Youth Spotlight soccer team was formed in Qianshan, Anhui province. Months of fundraising and planning turned my hopes into an unprecedented opportunity for the students at Tianzhushan Primary School. By this summer, we had been joined by dozens of students who are passionate about social justice. After two rounds of fierce competition with other clubs at my school, Youth Spotlight received a grant of $3,500 from the Shanghai American School community.

With the funds and growing financial support from individual sponsors, we were able to form nine soccer teams in schools in Qianshan.

In October, I applied for NGO status for Youth Spotlight.

As an officially recognized NGO it will be easier for us to expand and benefit more children.

No matter how big our organization becomes, I will always stay true to Youth Spotlight's mission to empower left-behind children through soccer.

Huang Yujia spoke with Zhu Lixin.

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