Night with Smiling Library

I had a nice chat with Breezee, Stonesee, Jing Jing and Dan Zhu today. They are Smiling Library founders and key persons in this project. I am proud to be a consultant to help Smiling Library to grow and solve the problems they meet. Smiling Library is helping schools in the poorest areas in China to build libraries with the public donations. They have helped 21 schools to build libraries with 10,000 books. What an achievement! This is the beginning of the third year of its operation.

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Image in courtesy of Smiling Library

They gave me the honor to be a part time consult to help them on the direction and management. The last time I talked deeply with them was in Jan of 2004. Another year pasted. I am excited to meet them again in a small restaurant. Their passion is still there and the problems they met keeps coming.

Here are two points I suggested today.

  • Make it clear that Smiling Library is an organization that provide services for the donators. To serve the donators and help them deliver their book and money to those who need them is the mission. We need to treat donators well and reward them for their good will. I got this idea from the story of Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library.
  • Feel free to accept commercial sponsorship and don’t shy away from using the money donated as operation cost. In the last two years, all the work has been done by volunteers and volunteers have to spend both time and money to participate. I suggest opening for public about the cost of certificate printing, library management, school assistance. If people are willing to sponsor that, we give back publicity. By this way the organization can survey. No one said a not-for-profit organization cannot has its own operation cost.

Meanwhile, I worried a lot that organization like this is still not legal in China. There is no account to hold this money. They can only open private bank account and this is not legal. There are many charity organizations in China that is helping people, but the current law framework does not allow this. This is the biggest barrier for NGO to develop in China, which I cannot help too much on.

8 Comments

  1. Someone tell me :

    Do the chinese government not allow any voluntary help to chinese citziens in need of help ?

    Or only allow this through governmental controlled organisations ?

    Thanks for your kind reply :-)

  2. This is a constant problem, one that I’ve run into, and I can emphathize with you on it. There are a lot of people who are trying to do good in China, doing things that the government should encourage or be doing itself. But because the system is top down in nature, the government tells the charitable organizations what to do and those organizations have little power to lobby the government. As I talked about in a previous comment, it takes individuals willing to do things on their own, but then they run into potential illegality issues. Its constant problem to consider bringing a group to the attention to the government, because you don’t know whether you can find a bureaucrat who will look upon you kindly or one that will frown on what you’re doing and stop you completely. What your friends are doing is great and I am certainly willing to do what I can to help out a good cause like this.

  3. Amanda Butterworth

    February 3, 2005 at 6:16 am

    Dear Mr. Wang,

    I believe that what you are doing is very important! All children deserve the chance to have access to books. It’s sad to think that very poor children are without one of the wonders of childhood. I don’t know who I would be today without the books of my youth. They inspired me, expanded my imagination, and taught me very important lessons about morality.

    I believe the Chinese government will loosen it’s attitudes around charity organizations. Let’s hope so! As China’s infrastrucutre strengthens, and the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer, China will need it’s own people to unite and help one another…not only rely on outside sources to support the poor….

    So, once again, good for you for wanting to help. I admire you and would like to do something similiar one day :-)

    Amanda

  4. Let me make it clearer about the charity part. No one is holding back people to do good thing, as long as MONEY is not involved, or to be more exactly, if others money is not involved. For Smiling Library, many people want to donate money to help, and this brings trouble. It is not a company, and not an individual either. It must be some form of organization to take care of the money to prevent it from abuse or corruption. Instead of setup a way to prevent, now the law does not allow charity funding, so far as I know. International NGO meeting was just held in Beijing and I guess something will be worked out on this gray area soon.

  5. 1.The name should be Smiling Library. So the link is http://www.smilinglibrary.org.

    2.Wang’s intelligence is very important to SL’s future.

    3.After 1989, it’s very hard to turn to be a new legal NGO.

    But things have to change. Hundreds of little groups are growing up silently. Their voices can’t be omitted any more. NGOs are shown to be part of the social life. They offer people chance of different choices. That’s why NGO’s future is promising in China. Although we’ve got long way to go, because of the known reasons.

    During the last two years, some new politics show us a promising future– With enough money support and a government department’s background, we can apply for a legal identity.

    We’ve got no successful ancestors.We’ve got no experiences. I’m worried about this but very proud.

  6. Have you ever heard about World Vision Child Sponsorship program? One little dollar a day can change the world of a child, it can provide clean water, healthy food and schooling, your gifts can provide a hope of future to an less fortunate child and his/her family, if you ever come cross the idea to sponsor a child don’t put it off, here is the link http://www.wvi.org/wvi/home.htm

  7. God bless you!

    We foreigners would very much like to do something for the Chinese children.

    Let us know how we can help!

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