China Expats Use Rock Music to Help Needy Students Back Home

The Rock for Hope concert to raise money for impoverished students in China was held in the Lower East Side. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

A non-profit organization started by several Chinese international students in the U.S. to assist underprivileged students back home is already an interesting story but the group draws further attention because it raises donations through popular rock music.

“Many people got to know our organization and became volunteers through watching our shows,” says Zhao Cheng, director of The Little Fir Foundation. “The attractive force of music is certainly there.”

The Little Fir Foundation was launched by several international college students from Tsinghua University in Beijing. They started raising money in 2008 and formally founded the organization a year later. Its purpose is to provide financial and emotional support to underprivileged students in China.

The foundation first began helping in three middle schools in Shou County, Anhui Province, one of China’s impoverished regions. They provided high school and college scholarships mainly for students from poor families, with high academic standing and good work ethics. Each qualified high school student received a scholarship of 1,500 yuan (over $240) per year until graduation and each college student received a scholarship of 5,000 yuan (over $1,500) per year until graduation. The organization formally started their scholarship program in 2010. Dozens of students have received financial support.

In 2010, The Little Fir Foundation started a charity performance known as the “Rock For Hope” concert.  In addition to raising money, the concerts also broadened their influence. They have been held six times and raised over $10,000.

Cheng revealed that he had always been into music.  He came to New York in search of work in 2006 and met several Chinese students on Wall Street with similar interests. Together, they formed a band called Aftershock. At their performances, he invites other Chinese bands as guest players. On Nov. 25 for Rock for Hope VI, they played for more than 100 people at Fontana’s on Eldridge Street in Lower Manhattan along with other bands and next they will have a family concert in Long Island in the spring.

Cheng says that passion is essential in running an organization. It is also important to maintain low operating costs. The Little Fir Foundation is a small group and everyone is a volunteer, making it possible for it to have no operating expenses. Furthermore, all funds are sent directly to the underprivileged students without any middleman or intermediary agencies. At the same time, rock music is their long-time passion. That makes everything much easier.

Many people who came to the concerts were young adults. Some of them got to know the organization through music and became volunteers. For more information about The Little Fir Foundation, visit

Below is a sample from the Rock for Hope V concert from 2011.

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