BEIJING – Madina, a fifth-grade Uygur girl from Hotan city, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, watched the dolphin show at Beijing Zoo on Monday afternoon with intense curiosity, just like other children in the aquarium.
However, few except for Madina herself could understand what these moments meant to her.
“The show was brilliant,” said the girl from Luopu township in Hotan. “My only regret was that my camera lost power when I was shooting the man riding the two dolphins. I was planning to share it with my mom and remember it again and again when I go back home.”
Madina was enjoying a summer camp that brought students from Hotan to places of interest in Beijing.
For many of the students, the summer camp was the first opportunity they have had to see the world outside their hometown.
“I had been to Urumqi once when my younger brother was there for medical treatment. But I was too young and cannot remember anything,” Madina said.
The 10-day summer camp that concluded on Tuesday and was organized by the headquarters responsible for affairs involving Beijing aiding Xinjiang, hosted 225 children, 90 percent of whom were Uygur.
According to the children, the camp not only taught them how to take care of themselves but also helped them to get to know each other better.
Yuan Shuai, an 11-year-old fourth grader admired the soccer skills of his roommate, Izdarjan, also 11.
“I played forward in my school team and I wish I could fire longs shots as strongly as Wesley Sneijder,” said Izdarjan.
Occasionally the two argued over soccer or whether their teacher would scold them for buying more popcorn.
Izdarjan taught Yuan how to say simple phrases in Uygur. “I taught him ‘thanks’ a dozen times probably, but he never remembered.”
The camp provided visits to a dozen places of interest in Beijing, but the children’s views on which was the best differ. Some said they liked Tian’anmen Square and some preferred the Great Wall.
The Beijing tour not only showed the children things and places they had never seen but also inspired some dreams.
“I think Beijing is a great place for university study. I was at Peking University the other day and was amazed by the scenery around the lake,” said Madina, who is very keen to study in Beijing in the future.
The summer camp is the first of its kind since Beijing partnered with Hotan city last year to provide assistance to the area and will be held annually in the future, according to Xun Lianzhong, an official from the headquarters.
Beijing plans to devote 15 percent of its total aid funds of 7.26 billion yuan ($1.12 billion) to help Hotan’s educational development in the next 10 years.
There will be dozens of education programs for teacher training, purchase of teaching equipment and exchange programs for middle and primary school students between the two cities.
Meanwhile, Beijing will also provide Hotan with aid for infrastructure construction, housing improvement and social projects. Hotan, located in the southern part of Xinjiang, has a population of 1.5 million, 97 percent of whom are Uygur.
Beijing partnered with Hotan city last year as the central government nominated 19 provinces and municipalities with better economies to assist designated areas, as part of a national campaign to boost the development of regional areas.