For several years, the Phelex Foundation has been exploring ways to make school-run projects sustainable for the support of needy children's education. The "Dripping Water" Tea Sale at the Beijing Spring Book Fair in May 2002 brought us hope by clearing a path to solve the problem of project sustainability.
Along with the Overseas Chinese Tea Business Foundation and Beijing Callan Service Center, the Phelex Foundation invited Zhang Jiarong, the principal of the Dripping Water Elementary School, and three of his students from Gucheng County, Hubei Province to participate in this charitable Tea Sale event. The children brought 114 kilograms of processed tea (about 4,021 ounces) to the Book Fair. This crop had been harvested from the Frances Rollins Tea Garden. It was sold for Rmb 24,280 (US$2,961) in 7 days. The "Dripping Water" tea meets the international standards set by Zeta Enterprises, and passed the local quality control inspections. The event received overwhelming attention, and people donated books, stationery, musical instruments, and other goods to the Dripping Water School children. (Please see the list of donations)
The Dripping Water Elementary School is located in the northwest of Hubei Province, 80 kilometers from Xiangfan, the nearest large city. As a small school, it used to have 98, and now has 57 students, in grades 1-4. Many students cannot afford the Rmb 300 per year tuition. In 1998, the Phelex Foundation helped the school establish "The Frances Rollins Tea Garden" hoping that income from the growth and processing of tea would be available for tuition payments. As of 2001, the Frances Rollins Tea Garden had brought RMB 29,134 worth of revenue, which helped pay tuition fees for 398 students within last four years.
Several Beijing media outlets reported the event. On three consecutive days, the Beijing Youth News featured "Selling Tea to Raise Funds for Tuition at the Book Fair" , which each day attracted more and more people to the Book Fair. Principal Zhang Jiarong and one of his students were also invited to a radio hotline program to answer questions. (please see the Beijing Youth News reports on May 1-3)
The event was also supported by the Hubei Province Education Committee, the Xiangfan City Education Bureau, the Dripping Water village and its Community Council, a Beijing TV station, the China Alleviation Foundation, Wuyutai Tea Ltd., and many other caring organizations and individuals. The Phelex Foundation was pleased to see the overwhelming public support and successful results of the tea sale. These results created for us a sustainable solution to the problem of needy children's education. There are now 11 other schools managing tea gardens as a sustainable source of income to help impoverished children. Theses Phelex project schools are spread in rural Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Guangdong and Yunan Province. Helping them find markets is one of the biggest challenges for the Phelex Foundation.