Hope Blossoms at the Dandelion School

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Students line up at the Dandelion School, the only middle school in Beijing, China, created specifically for children from low-income migrant families.

Housed in an abandoned factory in the suburbs of Beijing, the Dandelion School is the only middle school in the city created specifically for children from low-income migrant families moving to Beijing to find work.

But with crumbling plumbing and heating systems, and outdated electrical wiring, this beacon of hope was a real challenge to keep going.

Then, employees at Cummins Emission Solutions (CES) in Beijing became involved.

Using a new Corporate Responsibility Incubator Grants Program, they tackled some of the school’s structural problems and today the future is much brighter.

“Dandelion is helping needy children change their lives, but they face so many challenges,” said CES project leader Hans Han. “Cummins has a responsibility to help, in whatever way we can.”

Families from impoverished regions in rural China are often forced to leave all that is familiar in search of work in the nearest city. In many cases, they are small farmers made obsolete by modern farming practices. Often, their children’s schooling suffers because of higher education costs in the city.

The Dandelion School was established in 2005, charging only a nominal fee for tuition and boarding to help as many families as possible. Its operating budget has barely covered yearly expenses.

The CES Community Involvement Team (CIT) partnered with the school to apply for a grant from The Cummins Foundation’s newly created Incubator Grants Program. Launched in 2012, the program supports employee-led community environmental projects in two categories: energy efficiency and water conservation, protection and access.

Incubator grants provide start-up funds to help nurture innovative and high-potential Corporate Responsibility projects. Emphasis is placed on projects that can be scaled or replicated and that apply technology to solve environmental problems. The CES project with Dandelion was the first recipient of an incubator grant.

Members of Cummins’ Health, Safety and Environment team visited the school and put together a water and energy report. Together with the CIT, they studied water and electricity use to find areas for improvement and created a plan to reduce waste.

One hundred and eighty employees spent a total of 720 hours working to improve conditions. With the grant support, the team developed a system, installed underneath downspouts at the school, to collect, filter and re-use rainwater. Waste water can also be collected and treated by the equipment, with the purified water being used on gardens at the school.

The team also improved the insulation and lighting at the school, resulting in a 20 percent decline in energy consumption in addition to 20 percent more efficient use of water. The project’s success led to it being named one of 15 winners in Cummins’ 2012 Environmental Challenge.

“At Dandelion, we believe that education nurtures a child’s character, which ultimately makes the world a better place,” said school Principal Zheng Hong. “Thanks to the improvements in our school’s energy consumption and educational training for our students, Cummins will help us see benefits for years to come.”

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