For the past 11 summers, volunteers from all different walks of life have traveled to China to participate in the China Summer Teaching Program. Participants in the program work with roughly 150 rural Chinese students to provide educational opportunities to these students and strengthen environmental awareness. China Summer gives both the volunteers and the students the chance to build friendships with people from all over the world.
During the China Summer Program, volunteers teach in the morning and afternoon in classes that are selected based on their educational background. While in school, they discuss current events, issues in education, and have ample time for activities with the kids. With breaks every three days, volunteers have the opportunity to visit places around town or go on hikes; occasionally, they even have the special opportunity to visit the students’ homes.
The school is located in the Hunan Province of China in a staggeringly beautiful and mountainous area, yet just a short walk from the main street in Haojiping. Volunteers have the chance to teach English to local students from ages 8 to 19. The classroom sizes vary from 20-30 students per class.
The minimum age for volunteers is 16, and with no language requirement, it’s a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in traveling and volunteering in China. Volunteers come from the United States, Canada, China, and a few other countries. Volunteers stay on the school in dormitory style rooms with other volunteers of the same gender.
In a recent interview with Wuna, the co-founder of China Summer, we heard about the program and how she and her husband initiated it 11 years ago. Both Wuna and her husband studied, volunteered, and worked in China and the US. Their extensive volunteer experience inspired them to start their own company with the hopes of getting people to work and live somewhere different than what they are used to–to get people involved so that they too could experience the joys of volunteering and understanding other cultures, as Wuna and her husband had done. They felt it was most important for international as well as Chinese volunteers to close the gap between rural and city life as well as the gap between the rich and poor.
In 2000, the couple began to make plans and arrangements for the China Summer program. Their intention was to help others experience something dear to their hearts, not necessarily to make a career out of it, but 11 years later China summer is still going strong. After debuting in 2001 with 10 to 12 volunteers of varying ages and backgrounds, the program has steadily increased in participation numbers each year.
Over the past years, Wuna and her husband have begun to mostly target the program toward those of the younger generation. They noticed the most profound effect upon that age group, as Wuna explained, “putting them in a different environment has a transforming effect on their future as well as their sense of feeling about what they want to do about society, especially social work.”
When we asked Wuna about some of her favorite memories, one volunteer came to mind; she was a wealthy Chinese-American high school student who grew up in New York. She arrived in China with a preconceived idea about how she thought the trip would go, but by the end of her trip, she had a very different mindset.
Looking back on her experience, the volunteer explained, “I always took for granted what I had. Life is more than that. All those kids, might not have the opportunity to go to high school, so life is not only about progress or about Harvard.” Shortly after the program ended, Wuna heard back from the girl’s parents expressing their amazement about how much their daughter’s perspective and understanding had changed.
This dramatic impact on a young volunteer’s outlook over the short period of a few weeks is exactly why Wuna started this program; not only to help the Chinese students, but also the volunteers. It is important for Wuna to keep in contact with past volunteers and students so that she can see the effect the organization has had on people all over the world.
If you’re interested in China Summer please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org today. Also, check out the China Summer blog we started so people can post their stories and pictures from years past, and years to come!