This is the story of one man's dream.

Annui with studentsThis man's name is Annui, who lives in Dqn, a small town on the Tibetan plateau in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Through much hard work, tenacity and passion, his dream for a totally free school for underprivileged children has become a reality.

In 1997, using his own funds, he opened the Dqn County Welfare Tibetan School which emphasizes Tibetan language, culture and traditional medicine. The school now has 65 students that range in age from 7 to 19 years old and come from surrounding villages and as far away as 300 km. There are typically 4 students to a dormitory. The school has its own garden and Annui is aiming for self-sufficiency to feed the students.

Annui has only received $5000 in assistance from the government and local agencies and depends solely on donations. The biggest expense and constant concern is teaching staff. It's not easy to attract quality teachers to such a remote area. Annui's other major concern is his personal health. Due to a heart condition he is looking for a successor should he not be able to continue his role.

DEqen Tibetan SchoolElderTreks offers 2 trips a year to Yunnan and makes a donation on our clients' behalf to the school, as does our local operator. When I visited with my group in October, I was pleased to donate an additional $700. $200 of this was from the sale of handicrafts from Yunnan I had previously purchased there, and $500 was from Robbie Williams who visited the school with me in fall 2003. My group also generously donated cash to the school and between us we paid for about one month's expenses.

Tourism is in its infancy in this area despite its vast natural beauty and attractions. If you have the chance to visit spectacular Yunnan and meet Annui and his students, they will surely bring a smile to your face. You will also see that one person can make a difference and yes, dreams do come true.

Story by Roger Burrows, ElderTreks Tour Leader

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