Vol­un­teers an­swer call to give

More col­lege stu­dents find it a rich and re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to help peo­ple in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries dur­ing their va­ca­tions

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Holiday - By XIN WEN xin­wen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Zhao Yuti was re­gret­ful that he didn’t spend more time in Cam­bo­dia dur­ing the past sum­mer va­ca­tion to es­tab­lish a bet­ter con­nec­tion with the chil­dren he met.

The 21-year-old ju­nior stu­dent from the Univer­sity of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness and Eco­nomics in Beijing went to Siem Reap on Aug 19 to teach English vol­un­tar­ily for one week in a school.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was an un­for­get­table one for Zhao as he im­mersed him­self in a new coun­try.

What touched Zhao most was the chil­dren’s thirst for knowl­edge of the out­side world as well as their cu­rios­ity.

“I felt I was needed and would like to let them know more,” he said.

The sum­mer va­ca­tions pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for Chi­nese col­lege stu­dents to travel or do in­tern­ships. Vol­un­teer work has be­come more pop­u­lar among stu­dents, es­pe­cially in low-in­come coun­tries.

Zhao en­joyed his time there and the chance to meet new friends and ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent cul­ture.

One young girl, who had an an­gelic smile, stayed in his mem­ory. He called her “the tem­ple girl”, and ev­ery day when she came to class, Zhao said that he was won over by her beau­ti­ful smile.

“My heart melted and I felt happy see­ing her smile,” he said.

Duan Yichen has the same feel­ing. The 20-year-old sophafter omore stu­dent, also from the Univer­sity of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness and Eco­nomics with a ma­jor in trans­la­tion, com­pleted a two-week vol­un­tary stint in Galle, Sri Lanka in Au­gust.

Duan was touched by the sin­cer­ity and friend­li­ness of the Sri Lankans. The Shan­dong-born stu­dent said she was used to liv­ing in big cities that can be im­per­sonal. “But when I ar­rived at Galle, I was to­tally my­self and man­aged to strike up con­ver­sa­tions very eas­ily.’’

Duan loved to talk with chil­dren but some were shy, at least ini­tially. “I tried to play games with a three-year-old Sri Lankan girl, but she was very shy,” she said. How­ever, two days the young girl was join­ing in the games and ex­press­ing her­self.

“Even if what we do is small, I still hope our ef­forts help the chil­dren,” she said.

Mar­ket boom

Such vol­un­tary work has be­come a pop­u­lar choice for univer­sity stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to AIESEC, a stu­dent-launched global or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on over­seas vol­un­teer ser­vices and in­tern­ships, more than 2,800 Chi­nese vol­un­teers have gone to dif­fer­ent coun­tries in the past three years through its or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“It be­came in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous that Chi­nese univer­sity stu­dents pre­fer to do vol­un­tary ser­vices in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries,” said Lian Kaibin, an AIESEC branch man­ager.

World With­out Bor­ders, a vol­un­teer travel plat­form launched by col­lege stu­dents in Beijing in 2014, has sent more than 5, 000 vol­un­teers to dif­fer­ent coun­tries. In the last two years, the num­ber of vol­un­teers over­seas dou­bled, ac­cord­ing to the plat­form.

About 80 per­cent of the vol­un­teers chose to go to low-in­come coun­tries, said Wang Ji­aqi, co-founder and CEO of World With­out Bor­ders.

Zhang Wenyuan, di­rec­tor of the stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties of­fice at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, said more stu­dents in Ts­inghua are sign­ing up for such projects.

The univer­sity set up a mech­a­nism for stu­dents to record their ac­tiv­i­ties and over­seas ex­pe­ri­ences.

“It’s a good way for stu­dents to con­nect with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties and im­prove their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and learn­ing abil­i­ties,” he said.

Coun­tries in­volved in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive have also be­come a pop­u­lar choice among stu­dents, ac­cord­ing to Zhang. In 2018, 93 teams in­volv­ing 1,322 Ts­inghua stu­dents went over­seas for so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, to coun­tries as var­ied as Is­rael, Kenya and Kaza­khstan.

Safety Con­cern

Yang Yi, a teacher at a Beijing univer­sity youth league com­mit­tee, said the over­seas vol­un­tary ser­vice is a valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for univer­sity stu­dents.

“Most of the univer­sity stu­dents are not even fa­mil­iar with China’s ru­ral ar­eas,” he said. “The over­seas vol­un­tary ser­vice will help them to broaden their vi­sion and en­rich their ex­pe­ri­ences.”

How­ever, Yang also said safety is­sues need to be paid at­ten­tion to when stu­dents go over­seas.

“We will nor­mally ad­vise stu­dents to con­sider fac­tors, such as liv­ing con­di­tions and or­ga­ni­za­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tions be­fore they go abroad,” Yang said.

Zhao came back to school in early Septem­ber and re­sumed his stud­ies.

“I can feel my heart be­come stronger and broader after com­ing back from Cam­bo­dia,” he said.

“I hope to seek more op­por­tu­ni­ties when I am still young and have ad­ven­tures in more dif­fer­ent coun­tries.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY YUAN YIYU / FOR CHINA DAILY

A mem­ber of the Univer­sity of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness and Eco­nomics’ sum­mer so­cial prac­tice group shows peo­ple how to solve lantern puz­zles in Tbil­isi, the cap­i­tal of Georgia. A Sri Lankan girl smiles as a vol­un­teer from the Univer­sity of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness and Eco­nomics in Beijing gives her flow­ers.

From left:

YUAN YIYU / FOR CHINA DAILY

Zou Huiy­ing, a mem­ber of UIBE’s Georgia so­cial prac­tice group, writes Chi­nese char­ac­ters on a Geor­gian res­i­dent’s arm in Tbil­isi.

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