The goji berry is a tiny scrunched up fruit with a bitter-sweet taste that occurs naturally in China and is full of immense nutritional benefits. It has therefore been incorporated in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for more than 2000 years. Many people are more familiar with the nutritional benefits of the berry but do not have a clue about the fruit’s planting process.
Compared to other fruits, growing goji berries from seeds is very easy. One simply scatters the goji seeds over the top of the soil, then gently covers the seeds, and waters the topsoil lightly. One need not be too concerned about environmental factors as the seeds vitality allows them to survive in hardiness zones. Germination takes about a fortnight, and after this, the real work begins. On germinating, the goji seedlings need care and tending. One needs to water them regularly with moderate amounts of water and to eliminate weeds, pests, and diseases for the berries to thrive. This process is long and may be tedious for some, as the first harvest takes three to four years. Therefore, patience and hard work are essential. After the long wait, the orange-red goji berries ripen and are ready to be picked. Caution should be taken during harvest time as the goji-berries are thorny.
I do not participate in goji farming but the natives of Ningxia, China do. Farming goji berries is for them, not only an economic activity but also a way of life. Goji berries have occurred in Ningxia naturally since time immemorial with artificial farming beginning about 600 years ago. This land is located in the upper reaches of the Yellow River, an area characterized by an altitude of 3, 000 meters, mineral-rich alkaline soil, large diurnal temperature variation, and no pollution. Due to these exacting environmental conditions that facilitate the growth of goji berries, this land is referred to as “The Land of Goji.” This is where I have been taking part in volunteer activities.
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In a rural village called Dagou in Ningxia, the hardworking locals pour blood, sweat, and tears into nurturing their goji crops for a living. Despite all this hard work, few can afford quality education for their children. Just like the goji berries need mineral-rich alkaline soil to thrive, so do the children need education to grow wholesomely. It is with this motivation that I founded the Sprout Potential Club to provide scholarships and student loans to the needy students of the “Land of Goji.” This club has facilitated High school and higher-learning education for many needy but brilliant students in the region.
My work is inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Following his steps, I volunteered in P2P projects in Ningxia. This experience was both eye-opening and shocking. I could not believe the devastating impact of poverty on the children in Dagouyan Village when I first visited in 2015. However, just like the vitality in the goji seed, the children’s tenacity is overwhelming. They bear the brunt of poverty but never give up on their dreams. Most of these children are quite hopeful and ambitious about their futures. All they need is help to achieve these goals.
First, I led a successful crow-fundraising event on WeChat that raised ¥68,000 of donation. With the founders of Sprout Potential, I modeled scholarship process. Next, we interviewed needy students and sponsored their education with the fundraising’ proceeds. After this ground-breaking event, we received aid from other charities such as the Yanbao Charity Foundation to help more children.
Every time I savor the sweetness of the goji berries, I am reminded of the children of Ningxia. The children’s grit and resilience to accomplish their goals despite being born in utter poverty can only be equated to the berries ability to grow in the harsh wilderness. These thoughts urge me to forge on and assist them in every way I can.