A few years ago, my daughters and I were very lucky to participate in our school’s first Chinese New Year Fundraiser
, an amazing event sponsored by Jean Parker Elementary
‘s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). This event is now entering its third year, and I am still not aware of any other like it in the city.
During this fundraiser, students and their parents wear traditional Chinese holiday clothes and accompany Tsai Shen
(pronounced Choy Sun) as he visits local Chinese businesses. For those of you unfamiliar with Tsai Shen, he is the Chinese God of Fortune, and it is considered very lucky to touch him or have him visit you in the New Year as it is believed to bring much health, peace and wealth. I had never heard of Tsai Shen, and as we followed him through Chinatown wishing neighborhood businesses good fortune, I could see how important a figure he is in Chinese culture. (He is as recognizable as Santa Claus is for us westerners, and even more important, as he is loved by both children AND
We entered into local businesses shouting “Tsai Shen is here!” and “Happy New Year!” in Chinese. The business owners in turn gave our children Lai See
, red envelopes containing money that are traditionally given to children at this time of year. Not only did we connect with the larger Chinese community and local businesses spreading good cheer, we raised money to support programs at our school!
The Jean Parker Elementary School PTO had worked very hard to build a parent/teacher organization that was truly reflective of our community. Our president at the time, Kim Konami, came up with the idea after we had discussed fundraising ideas that would celebrate our school’s rich Chinese heritage and connect us with the larger Chinatown community (where many of our students and families live.)
The event was such a success, that it continued the following year with a second Chinese God joining the procession along the way named Shou Xing Gong
, the God of Long Life.
I felt so proud to be a part of it this amazing event. I also felt lucky that my daughters could learn about Chinese traditions and celebrations which are such an important part of our city’s heritage and culture. So often, I have heard the stereotypical phrase that Chinese families are “not interested” in getting involved in our schools. (Not true!) I have also seen how PTAs and PTOs plough ahead with routine fundraisers and events while ignoring the diverse cultural heritage that exists among families at their schools.
This event strongly reaffirmed my belief that ALL families have amazing things to contribute to our schools if they are given the chance to participate. And, when we make the extra effort to include the histories, values, and viewpoints of all school community members, we all benefit. (It’s not just about bake sales people!)
Thank you Kim Konami, our then PTO President, and Frank and Bing Zhu, Jean Parker alumni and grandparent and parent for working together to make this great idea to reality. And thank you to the principals (past and present), teachers, other PTO Board members and all the children, families and neighborhood business who continue to make it a success.
If you would like to donate to the Chinese New Year fundraiser or learn more about the Jean Parker PTO, go to this link for more information.