A group of city children discovered last week that almost every aspect of rural life, from living standards to dreams and ambitions, is different from theirs.
Chen Yixiu, a senior middle school student from Shanghai, got his first glimpse at the vast differences between city and country life when Chongming Island, on the outskirts of Shanghai, came into view after an hour-long boat ride.
"Everything I imagined about Chongming Island proved wrong," Chen said. "I had expected villas there, whatever. This is part of Shanghai, one of the most developed cities in the country."
Chen was one of more than 150 children from Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Shanxi and Shanghai who participated in a special summer camp to teach city children about the realities of rural life.
The annual summer camp, sponsored by the China National Children's Center and the United Nations Children's Fund, was first held in 2002.
"The summer camp sets a good example to help children participate," said Wan Yan, an official from the State Council, to mark the end of this year's camp during the weekend.
During their seven-day stay in Chongming, the group visited longtime local residents as well as people relocated from the Three Gorges.
"The living conditions of the resettled people are better than those of their hometowns and they are grateful for the bigger and brighter houses in Chongming, but I still felt sorry because compared to city life, their life is much plainer," Chen said. "It brought up so many questions in my mind: I want to know why and how the differences developed."
Several topics, like dreams and family, school and education, AIDS prevention and mental health were discussed among the camp participants.
They also conducted surveys on education, environment, and mental and physical health in rural areas.
(China Daily August 23, 2004)