Running for Education
Dotted along the routes of the Gobi March are many schools which have benefitted from Esquel-Y.L. Yang Education Foundation, receiving books and scholarships for promising students and some of the rural schools being completed renovated.
Having partnered with the Gobi March since 2005 as a participant and event partner and sponsor, Esquel is one of RacingThePlanet's longest supporters. Esquel's expertise in the far-western province has seen them provide essential assistance with logistics and local government liaison.
In addition to its work behind the scenes, Esquel also organizes a team of three or four participants to take part in the Gobi March each year. While the Esquel colleagues are not professional athletes, teamwork has managed to earn them good results, including first place in the team competition in the Gobi March 2011.
"Our participants are selected from the best athletes amongst our over 33,000 staff community within China," Esquel Chairman Marjorie Yang. "Completing the race is no simple task; it requires the highest tenets of team spirit, can-do attitude, physical courage and pursuit of excellence. Their effort and perseverance clearly demonstrates the unique characters of Esquel employees and serves as an exemplar for all. It's an exceptional opportunity also for them to network with other athletes and share their sweat and tears."
Esquel has worked in Xinjiang for many years, with cotton being their most important raw material - the Extra Long Staple cotton is only found in Xinjiang. Having travelled and worked in Xinjiang many times, Ms. Yang shares some of the same sentiments about the region as so many of the Gobi March's competitors.
"This is one of the most exotic regions in the world," Ms. Yang said. "Esquel first discovered Xinjiang while commissioning spinning in the region. It was a place of such beauty and fragility that prompted us to come to Xinjiang while putting sustainability at the heart of our mission and practices. Our participants said that this is one of the most memorable natural sceneries in a lifetime."
Over the years, RacingThePlanet has been proud to support the Esquel-Y.L. Yang Education Foundation. Established in 2003, the Foundation's projects are based in rural Xinjiang and are focused on education and community: the renovation of 21 schools, student scholarship programmes, the donation of 33,000 books to over 1,000 schools, and a programme that supports families whose parents are affected by AIDS. In 2012, the Foundation will partner with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Optometry to conduct eye examinations in rural communities.
This year's Gobi March will once again pass through remote regions of the Gobi Desert and RacingThePlanet and Esquel will continue to support schools in need.
"During the preparation and prior to the event, the Gobi March team would identify schools with genuine needs along the competition route and make donations of computers and furniture to these schools," Ms. Yang explained. "This has meant a lot of improvements to the learning environment of children in these schools."