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ASSOCIATION " A Better World via Education "


The children of the earth are humanity's greatest treasure. Join us with your generous donation and help socially disadvantaged children have a happy childhood!

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Condolences with the victims of
the earthquake
Volunteers in Sichuan

Travels of a Lao Wai

I am a Professor of engineering at McMaster University in Canada and like many faculty members I have had the opportunity to visit a number of universities in China and have been most impressed by the economic and social developments in China. A dominant impression of China has been the problems and complexity of organising a country of 1.4 billion people and how one's concept of terms such as orderly or privacy are changed in the context of major Chinese cities. However I have also been fortunate enough to travel in a number of rural and more isolated areas including Tibet, Xinjiang and various parts of Yunnan province and have truly found a different world which touches me deeply.
My knowledge of Chinese is limited –indeed I have had major problems finding the appropriate washroom and being mistaken for a beggar when trying to ask what food was available! Thus my travels have been more akin to “Mr. Bean” than the usual organized tour of China. Also I do not claim to understand the nuances of the social and political structure in China and can only read with envy of the penetrating vision developed by Joseph Needham as outlined in Simon Winchester’s The Man who loved China.
Nonetheless I have been privileged to stay in isolated villages without roads or electricity, to mix with Uyghur Moslems in dusty dessert towns which have changed little since the days of the Silk Road and observed the lives of a number of minority peoples within the great mosaic which is China. I have come to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of rural China and the advantages of a life which is dominated by natural forces and events rather than the constant intrusion of advertisements or a materialism which is destructive both to the environment and the human spirit.
Very soon after a visit to the wonderful forests on Yunnan I was in China for the terrible events of the earthquake which devastated part of Sichuan in 2008. As I watched the horrific images day after day I was struck not simply by the scale of destruction but by the indomitable spirit of a nation. This did not reflect the political system or its ability to organize aid by the Army or the obvious contrasts with the Hurricane Katrina.
It reflected a sense of community, a sense of caring and of communal responsibility. I never heard the familiar response of “the government can take care of this” but I heard “what can I do or what can my class or my unit do.”
My thoughts of that time are reflected in the poem below which is in both English and Chinese and in my determination to try and change perceptions my own and those of others and indeed to re-educate myself via the values I observed in rural China. Thus I have become involved in a small humanitarian aid association the details of which you can find at
I hope that by rebuilding a kindergarten in Sichuan we will not just rebuild a school but will foster a deeper understanding between the people of Canada and of China. Not a contact based on comparison of political systems or economic strategies but based on our inner values and the fact that are all involved in the stewardship of the earth and of our fellow human beings .I welcome your support and your comments

David Embury
Professor Emeritus, McMaster University, FRSC


Sichuan 2008

David Embury, May 28th 2008

The Richter scale,
Tectonic collisions.
A vocabulary smoothed and digestible
Instant geophysics on a thousand websites
around the earth.
The cadres and mandarins are measured and humane
three days of mourning for a nation paralysed by grief.
Images rise like summer butterflies too numerous to comprehend
Buildings made gaunt and angular in their death throes,
mountains torn asunder, rivers and lakes discarded,
or reformed in new geometries.
Endless images now made to carry patriotic slogans
and a people’s fierce pride.
in the night
I hear them in a final plaintive anthem.
These children crushed and shattered in their innocence.
They are buried, and with them hope and laughter.
The simple joy of parents is gathered in the endless debris
which fills the torn and wounded villages of China.
Let us find the pipa and the flute and hold the children’s
music in our hearts less we lose our own humanity.
Let us remember them in schools and parks
and places where their joy and innocence can grow anew.

more to come ...

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