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December 30, 2009

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Charity books up 20 libraries

STUDENTS at the Robert. H. Smith School of Business devote their spare time to raising money to build libraries in impoverished villages around rural China, reports Sam Riley.

Some of Shanghai's brightest business minds have joined forces to raise money for the education of some of China's most disadvantaged young people.

Students, alumni and staff from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business in Shanghai have successfully raised more than US$30,000 to build up to 20 rural libraries in orphanages and schools in Anhui Province.

The Smith School's alumni fund-raiser benefits schools that will each receive a gift of 500 to 1,000 children's books, plus furniture or additional construction as needed.

The school's China director and chief representative for the State of Maryland, Ning Shao, says it has been 30 years since Maryland and Anhui Province established sister-state relationships.

It was one of the first of the sister-state relationships between China and the United States, and Ning says the fund-raising effort was one of the best ways to celebrate the relationship.

Students from the school, who are executive or management-level MBA students, have supported the library project through the Team Maryland Charity since 2007.

This year's fund-raising efforts are more than double what they raised last year and students have in the past helped to build more than 20 libraries.

Students also visit the schools to help set up the libraries they have raised funds for.

"With a lot of fund-raising, you raise the money, give it to a credible organization and then you don't really know what happens next," Ning says. "Our vision is that our students and volunteers are totally involved through every stage of the process and that really empowers people so they really own it."

The Library Project was started in the winter of 2006 and first created two bilingual libraries in Dalian in Liaoning Province at two orphanages. More than 6,000 books, tables, chairs, posters, mats and lighting were donated.

It became the model for what was to follow, with the project having now built more than 200 libraries around China and Vietnam.

The Library Project has developed a number of projects in the remote and mountainous areas of northwestern Shaanxi Province and has expanded to work in more than 19 provinces around China.

The project has donated more than 150,000 books, many of which it sources at heavy discount from regional bookshop warehouses, online distributors and resellers.

It has also run a national book-collection campaign where it has received "like-new" quality books from a range of donors including companies, elementary and high schools, corporate conferences and local communities.

Ninety percent of the books distributed are in Chinese with the remaining 10 percent consisting of books in Russian, Japanese, English and Korean.

The Maryland students' main fund-raising activity was a gala dinner in late November. They attracted some high-powered corporate help including platinum sponsors Black & Decker, United Family Healthcare, Jaguar, DeWalt, Wall Street English, Land Rover, Under Armour, Hyatt on the Bund and Microsoft.

The companies donated products and services that were auctioned off at the charity event that was attended by more than 220 people.

The University of Maryland set up its business school in China first in Beijing in 2003 and then in Shanghai in 2005.

It is the third annual fund-raising effort for the business school that accessed a network of University of Maryland alumni, who number more than 200 in China.

The school has had seven intakes or so-called "cohorts of students" since its inception.

Ning says half of the students are foreigners and half are Chinese professionals who were working for multinational companies.

The fund-raising effort was started by students and Ning says it was never envisaged that it would become an annual event.

"Our students are very busy executives with a very busy life in Shanghai, they can still find time to give back to society," he says.

As part of raising awareness for their fund-raising efforts, the students also competed as a group in the recent Shanghai Marathon. The university will continue to raise money until April 2010 and plans to begin installing libraries later in the year.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the charity can visit


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