Where: Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
When: We chatted via Skype on January 20th 2015. RISE started in 2011.
Who: Kate Smith, international student at Tsinghua University, studying a Masters in environmental engineering. She is originally from Australia. She is project coordinator for one of the three main activity streams of RISE. In total there are currently around 50 students involved in RISE, from different departments, about 60% of whom are international students.
What: RISE stands for Rural International Student Exchange. It is a student-led initiative aiming to bring together Chinese and international students to find solutions to issues affecting rural areas and the environment. There are three main project areas:
– water – biosand filters are brought to communities to filter the water for household use, with locals taught how to build and maintain them
– urban agriculture – has focused on aquaponics and soil quality for growing food
– solid waste management – newest project area, currently focused on campus to introduce recycling procedures to the university.
Why: The project began to bring together international and local students, and to help contribute to issues affecting the surrounding areas. The idea is that the students and the people they visit in rural areas can all learn things from this experience.
Impacts/success: In Gansu, “the teacher from one of the primary schools we visited there rang me up a few days ago to let me know that they are very happy with the quality of the water coming out of the filter we built there. We built two filters in September and November 2014 and, at the same time, the teacher took advantage of having a foreigner in the school and got me to do an English lesson for the primary school students.”