The life of the Miao people

Photo exhibition created on the 10th. anniversary of SP Edify


Who are the Miao people?

The Miao people, also known as Hmong, are an ethnic minority who used to live in the high areas of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River regions of China until the 17th Century.

Due to major social unrest and the need to search for better agricultural grounds, they immigrated to the southeast areas of Asia and China.

In China, they settled mainly in the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi and Guizhou.

Why does SP Edify focus on helping the Miao people?

The Miao small ethnic minority is recognized as among the poorest small ethnic minorities in China, being subjected to ethnic discrimination and displaced to the poorest agricultural areas of the places where they live.

SP Edify has focused exclusively on the Miao people living in the Hong He Autonomous Region in Yunnan, living in settlements near the city of Kaiyuan. Most of the Miao people living in the area of Kaiyuan City used to live in the Pingbian area, where the fields they were assigned made them unable to maintain their families. Therefore, as they had to search for better agricultural fields, they settled in the high mountainous areas near Kaiyuan.

As they immigrated without the authorities permission, they lost the right to have “Hu Kou” (official family registration) that is necessary to enjoy the rights of a normal Chinese citizen (education, health, land, etc.), including the normal legal and ethnic protection, therefore becoming frequent target of social discrimination and abuse.

Besides this, the Miao families almost always exceed China’s “One Child Policy”. It is frequent to see families with 5, 6 or 7 children among them. Therefore, those children are also unable to get legal “Hu Kou”.

Both reasons make them become “Hei Ren Hei Hu” (illegal people and illegal settlements), and this is the core reason of their social discrimination and economic backwardness. They are the people that, in our view, need help the most, and this is also the main reason SP Edify have focused on them during these 10 years.


The initial situation

When SP Edify started to help the Miao people of the Kaiyuan area, their life conditions can be summarized as follows:

  • No “Hu Kou” (official family registration)
  • No schools in any of the villages.
  • Children could not admitted to attend government schools.
  • No drinking water. In some villages, to get drinking water means a trip of 2 to 3 hours.
  • No electricity.
  • Extreme poverty. The annual family income in some of the villages was about RMB 1,000,00 per year.
  • Extremely poor health condition. In many villages, people and animals live in the same building.
  • We observed severe malnutrition in the children and villagers at large. Infant mortality was high.

How does SP Edify help the Miao people?

Education: Because SP Edify was founded by Saint Paul School in Macau, we have put the main focus on education and schooling.
  • We built and maintain 4 Primary schools that provide free education for the children in Hongpotou (Daoming 1), Zhangpojiao (Daoming 2), Mataipo (Daoming 3) and Pingtoushan (Daoming 4).
  • We provide and train professional teachers for the schools.

Betterment of their life conditions: Wherever we see the need, SP Edify also carries on programs to better their normal life conditions:
  • Build water cisterns in all the 4 schools.
  • Build a large water cistern in Zhangpojiao, able to provide 1 year of drinking water for the village.
  • Build family water cisterns in Denglongshan.
  • Bring medical teams from China and other countries to conduct free medical examinations of the students and villagers.
  • Provide clothing, shoes and school stationary items for our students.
  • During the last 2 years, we have put into motion a plan to provide them with new brick houses, so people and animals live in different buildings.
Raising awareness of the Miao people living conditions:
  • Bring newspapers and social media people to report on the living conditions of the Miao people.
  • Distribute and report on all the things that we have received from China and from abroad for the Miao people.
  • Create and maintain a webpage: to state and publicize the development of the project.
Raise funds both in China, Macau and abroad to maintain the project through the Caritas Bazar we organize every year and also through the webpage. Saint Paul School guarantees that 100% of the funds are used exclusively in the project.


Collaboration with government agencies

To reach some sort of collaboration with the relevant government agencies has been one of the main priorities from the start for SP Edify. There have been many ups and downs in the process, but now there is a solid understanding with the government agencies, especially with the Hong He Zhou Education Department regarding the official status of the 4 Daoming schools, reaching the following points:

  • The 4 Daoming schools are recognized by the Education Department as private schools.
  • The 4 Daoming schools are provided with free textbooks.
  • The 4 Daoming schools take the same examinations as the rest of the government schools. The examinations are observed by a government team, exactly the same as the rest of the schools.
  • After finishing Primary 2 year, all of our 4 schools students are admitted to attend government schools without any preconditions.
  • All of our 4 schools students are provided with free milk, bread and cakes on a daily basis.

The situation of the 4 villages now

  • During the 10 years of working for the Miao people, we have observed a significant improvement in the lives of the Miao people, especially in the four villages we have been working for.
  • In general, the area of Kaiyuan has experienced a remarkable economic and social improvement. The improvement and changes are evident every time we go there. Especially important is the opening of a freeway going from Kunming to Kaiyuan through Shilin. This has shortened the trip by more than 2 hours in time, and has made the trip much safer.
  • The annual family income have risen to about RMB 4,000.00 per year. Little by little we can see that the villagers eat better food and have better living conditions.
  • The 4 villages are equipped with enough number of water cisterns that, depending on the amount of rain water, will at least provide them with adequate amount of reasonably clean drinking water. The solution of the drinking water problem is essential to better their health condition.
  • The city of Kaiyuan has tackled the difficult problem of the people without official registration and arrived at a satisfactory solution. Now, villagers from the places belonging to the jurisdiction of the City of Kaiyuan (Hongpotou, Mataipo and Pingtoushan) have already “Hu Kou”. The problem of Zhangpojiao is still pending, since Zhangpojiao belongs to the jurisdiction of the City of Jianshui, and not to the jurisdiction of Kaiyuan.

Especial words of thanks

We have first to thank Lishu and Chenli for all the support, effort and sacrifice they have put into the project. Without them, nothing could have been possible. We want to praise their generous and selfless attitude, the effort and sacrifice they have made going from Kunming to the schools every month at least one or two times, to the point that the villagers not only consider them their true friends, but also their father and mother.

We want also to thank all the teachers and students at Saint Paul School in Macau. They are the main support to the project organizing the annual Caritas Bazar and contributing very generously to the financial support of SP Edify. The four times they had the opportunity to go to visit the 4 Daoming Schools, they have behaved admirably, treating all the students like their own brothers and sisters.

We want also to thank the Education Department of Hong He Zhou. They have helped us to get a legal status to the schools and they are contributing greatly to the development of the schools.

Finally, we want to thank all and everyone who has donated funds to the project from all over the world: China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Spain, Switzerland, USA, etc., for their generosity and solidarity towards the Miao people. The amount of money they donate is not important. What is important is the solidarity and love they want to express with the donation. There is the case of an old teacher in a mountainous area of Spain: as she heard about the project, she went home and came back with EUR 1,000.00 as a donation for the project, and she still continues donating money every year. There is also a 93 years old lady in Spain: after she saw a movie about the Miao people, she immediately donated EUR 500.00 for the project.