The Same Hometown but a Different Me

同样的家乡  不一样的我

Born in the 1990s, Ajue graduated from Chengdu University in 2018. Like most young people, she has dreams and expectations for herself, for life, and for society. Ajue became concerned with environmental protection and ‘to be the change she wants to be’ while at university; to continue her pursuit, she joined an internship programme with GreenSOS after graduation.

When the one-year internship came to an end, Ajue returned to her village of Tongling to make a short film about her hometown and her father’s farm. Tangtang, who heads the internship programme and is skilled in filming, accompanied her.

GreenSOS is an organisation that nurtures youth participation in community environmental action. In 2018, it initiated the ‘Stories of Handicrafts and Local Food’ project to promote sustainable living. They strategically chose food as they knew it would appeal to youth, and they chose social media for the dissemination of messages for a wide reach: Ajue joined as an intern and worked together with 300 other youths.

As the project unfolded and the network grew, Ajue had the opportunity to reflect on and discuss principles and practices through films and recordings on video platforms, through the popular social media platform, WeChat, and through visits to organic farms that engaged in creative cultural activities and responsible tourism. Ajue came across several practices she found meaningful, such as composting and the production of eco-friendly detergent. She said that sustainable living was no longer a dreamy fantasy for her, but something achievable.

It so happened that the year Ajue went to Chengdu for university, her father returned to Tongling for a new career after running a successful business in Liuzhou. He started to develop ecological agriculture as a way to help alleviate poverty among farmers and to protect the rivers of his hometown. In the five years that followed, the father and daughter were busy and seldom talked with each other; yet unknowingly, they became closer through agriculture.

When they did communication, it was significant. During her internship, when Ajue and colleagues had questions about ecological agriculture, she would find herself consulting her father. She came to see that her father’s farm could become a base for learning, where young people could experience local Tongling life and explore sustainable living.

Ajue and Tangtang filmed in Tongling for three days. Ajue’s father spent one day driving them around to see the layout of a few thousand acres farm with rice paddies, dragon fruit orchards, a range of vegetables, and a lily pond with small crayfish. It was the first time Ajue heard about his plans for the farm, and she said, “My first response: it is great. My father is doing something so meaningful!”

Tangtang produced the five-minute film The Same Hometown but a Different Me. As narrator, Ajue shared observations of Tongling’s environmental challenges and explained things like shuiyuan, a traditional food she loves. She sent the film to her father. “He said it is very good and it had never occurred to him that I know my hometown so well!”

The filming brought the daughter and father closer as the two consciously and unconsciously explore alternatives in life. Ajue wants to work with GreenSOS in developing the farm into a learning centre, and her father concurs. In her dream – quite possibly a reality – visitors will develop their own unique paths to sustainable living.

(from Annual Report 2018-2019