The Website "Carry One More Kg on Back" functions like a private NGO. Young people who are interested in Yu’s ideas exchange information about schools and children, and what’s more, it’s a place for them to put their belief in social welfare into practice.
Yu fell in love with travel in 2000. Since then, he has been to many places including Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Shandong provinces as well as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. While these places have some spectacular natural sights, they also constitute most of the poorest areas in China, and perhaps it was these sharp contrasts that made Yu consider something beyond the beautiful scenery.
"In April, 2004, a friend told me about his experiences meeting ‘zhi jiao’ (volunteers from big cities who teach in poor areas for one or two years or even longer, mainly young people) in Yunnan. I was inspired to call on more tourists to try our best to help those children," says Yu, who works for a sports Website in Beijing.
Yu recalls the first trip he made to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province. Yu stayed there for two days, playing games and cooking outdoors with local children. This trip completely changed his concept about social welfare and volunteering.
"It was the very first time that I realized we could do this cliched stuff and be happy. Though poverty could stimulate sympathy and attract merciful people to help, we are more regarded as a ‘donator’," he says. "Actually, every child should enjoy their childhood. And happiness is never judged by whether you are rich or poor.
"I want to find those children’s happiness and joy, instead of revealing their poverty. Then I can help them have a broader outlook."
In order to garner support from others, Yu built the Website with some friends. Since it was set up, more and more people have learnt about how to help in a meaningful and positive way, and it soon spread nationwide, especially in big cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
"We mainly carry with us stationery and books. But we’ll check before we leave, and contact the school to find out their needs. Sometimes, we also carry sports and recreational items or medicines," says Yu.
Giving the example of the time he visited a school at a popular tourism destination and the headmaster told him that tourists had brought too much stationery while they lacked medical and hygiene supplies, Yu shows the importance of checking before you set off.
Another thing to bear in mind, says Yu, is that sometimes children develop bad habits when they are constantly receiving gifts, and many Tibetan children now ask for excessive money and stationery.
"Blind love often causes negative effects. ‘Carry One More Kg on Back’ aims to avoid this by effective management and control of correct information. We want to justify having warm hearts," he says.
"I don’t suggest giving out cash, for the money may not be used correctly. One of my friend told his experiences in Sichuan. Once he found that in order to receive donations, some people pretended to be the poor," says "Tong Yan Wu Ji" (Internet name), a 25-year-old Shanghainese who’s also a member of the Website.
"Tong" co-organized a photo exhibition featuring children they have helped at Jiao Tong University last September.
"We, members of the Website, were self-motivated to hold that exhibition. The Website offers a lot of useful information. We want to promote the idea," says "Tong."
Similar photo exhibitions have been held in Xi’an, Guangzhou and Beijing, arousing more support from college students.
Yu says the Website is designed to promote interaction.
"You can have good communication with children even if you bring nothing there. On the contrary, you may bring a lot of gifts while you don’t have any real communication with them. In either case, you have not completed the job we describe," he explains.
It’s not difficult or complicated to interact, and this comes naturally to all human beings. Taking the time to chat with children as equals can make a world of difference to their lives, and provide you with a positive and rewarding experience.
"I still remember once in Guizhou, I showed some pictures on my laptop to a little girl. She was excited and told me that she would also use a computer in the future," says Yu. "A short stint of communication may change the life of a child, but you have to let her feel equal to talk to you, you should be his/her friend instead of a donator in a position of power."
Yu says the idea of their Website is similar to Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) where everyone can be part of it. Traditionally, helping with social welfare has been the domain of the rich.
"Though they can do it more effectively, if we remain committed for a long time, our help will reach more people who need it," he explains.
"Tong" says the project may also benefit from building a team to track where help is arriving. "Feedback is difficult to collect. I doubt sometimes children who really need help are getting it."
How to ‘Carry One More Kg’
The Website lists three essential rules for tourists to follow when they are traveling — deliver, communicate and share.
Before leaving, prepare some presents or stationery.
Next, give these away to children along your journey and enjoy the opportunity to communicate with whom you are gifting these items to.
Lastly, when you return home, exchange your information and experiences with other members at www.1kg.cn.