Unforgettable Memory from Nanpo Village
I had never dreamed that one day, I would come to study in China and got the opportunity to be a volunteer teacher in the rural area.
Iwas born to a simple family in a remote area in East Timor. In 2000, while my country was rebuilding from the war that broke out in 1999, everything was burnt down to the ground, including n early every home. Many people were homeless. I used to live in a small bathroom.
During our transitional government, we received humanitarian aid from many countries— China being one of them. There were also university students from other countries volunteering to teach in every village in East Timor.
Therefore, when I grew up, I’ve always been looking for opportunities to repay the society. I’d been a volunteer teacher for village children in my hometown of Lospalos.
I became a student of the China University of Geo sciences in Wuhan (CUG) in 2014.
After I came to China, I heard from some teachers and through the Internet about the poor education status of children of migrant workers in underdeveloped regions. Their stories were such a magnetic force that pulled me in. I felt that I needed to do something when I got a chance.
I kept telling people around me that I would like to go to the rural areas and help teach the children during the vacations, and the opportunity finally came. Two of my schoolmates introduced me to 山中花儿爱心
助学团 (Shanzhong Hua’er Aixin Zhuxue Tuan, literally Mountain Flowers Student’s Charity Group), a foundation at CUG committed to improving the education condition in poor areas and to upgrade the growth of public consciousness of young students. Through it, students can apply and go to teach in rural areas in their summer vacation.
I applied to the foundation, and in the summer of 2016, I joined a group of students to volunteer in Nanpo, a village in Guangxi Province.
On the morning of July 8, we took off from Wuhan. After 24
hours cheerfully spent in music playing, chatting and making new friends, we arrive data train station in Guangxi the next morning. The mango trees and cool weather in this southern province of China brought me back to my days in the countryside of East Timor.
On July 10, in the early morning we left for Nanpo. With the fresh air and fog upon the hills, we enjoyed the morning sun while seated on the mini bus to the village.
After some hours, we finally arrived at Nanpo. On the same day, we went to visit local families. We went door to door to ask whether there were any children able to come to a class that would start in the next few days. We met some of the children on our rounds and made our way to their homes with their help.
The local people were warmhearted and welcoming. They especially welcome volunteer teachers like us, “No matter what language you speak, it seems everyone understand the true meaning of a smile, it communicates everything that a heart wants to express and understand.”
Some people were living in good homes but some were not— some of them were living in very simple huts made of leafs, grass, wood, and clay. They have to work hard each day and night in order to support their children to go to school. Even though they have a hard life, they still appreciate everything they have— you can still see the happy faces behind the huts.
On July 11, we started our first day of the school program in Nanpo. Some of us were in charge of the students’ registration process and some cleaning the classroom. At the beginning, only around sixty students registered. We split them into two groups based on age. After a short while, each class had around forty students.
Some of the younger ones were shy, especially when they were seeing a foreigner for the first time. They didn’t know much about my lessons. In order to overcome this challenge, we played games and sang along with them. When they became more familiar with me and the other teachers, the teaching process became easier.
Art class was one of the most interesting classes. I was convinced that the pupils were willing to learn new things. All of them were really careful with their work. They paid attention to the steps I drew on the white board closely. Among the pupils there was a little boy who was very good at drawing. On one of our last days in Nanpo, we visited his
home and I decided to give him my drawing book as a gift.
The pupils were cute and very nice, even though some of them were a bit naughty. One thing I liked about these pupils is that, every morning, they would come by our dormitory and greet us with their happy smiling faces. They would even take snacks in and share with the teachers. After more time passed, the students became more curious about us.
I didn’t have a Chinese family name before going to Nanpo. There, my students helped me in choosing my family name 欧阳(ouyang). From that moment on, my Chinese name became 欧阳鸿飞 (Ouyang Hongfei).
Some started to call me 飞哥( Feige), especially the naughty pupils would prefer calling me
(Heige) or even (Laohei). They started to ask me many questions. One of them asked me whether one day he will be able to speak English well. Sometimes after class the pupils would ask me for my drawings, because they wanted to keep them as a memory.
July 18 was the last day of our stay in Nanpo. Before we left the village, the whole group rearranged the rooms and the school facilities that we have used, and made sure everything was put in place. We also managed to organize a farewell party with the children, where the students presented their talents such as singing, dancing, poetry, and we gave them the presents that we bought from Wuhan and their certificates. The students also surprised us. They gave us some souvenirs and other small gifts. It was a sad day for all of us. Eventually we all left for Wuhan.
I’d never dreamed that one day, I would come to study in China and get to teach in a rural area. Being part of the life of the children of Nanpo might be the most incredible experience ever for me. If you asked me what would be the thing I have done to make me the proudest, my answer would be putting a smile on the faces of the children of Nanpo.
Those children will always be in my heart.