A group of 18 members of the IFT Volunteer Circle visited the Second National Senior High School in Congjiang County, Guizhou Province from 9 to 16 June.
Congjiang County is in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture. The poverty rate among inhabitants of the prefecture is among the most troubling in China. At the suggestion of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, Congjiang County was selected to be a focus of assistance given by Macao as part of its contribution to the national effort to relieve poverty.
The Volunteer Circle team was accompanied by IFT Lecturer Mr. Stephen Sayers, who says: “The high school requested support for Grade 7 and 8 English classes, as it is a general issue that students of that county struggle to get into university because they fail in English; at the same time through helping others the trip gave our students an opportunity to improve themselves.”
The outcome of the volunteer teaching project was positive, for both local teachers and students, as well as for the IFT students. Mr. Sayers says, “Local teachers and students gained a feeling of support and encouragement. Some of our students said their concept of doing volunteer work changed: they initially thought it was about helping the needy, but it turned out they changed a lot through the experience.”
Mr. Sayers reports that he was very proud of the IFT team’s efforts, and enjoyed reading the student reflections. He says: “It became very clear that participating in the project helped make the IFT volunteers more self-confident, responsible, humble and grateful.” Students commented:
“When it comes to change, of course, it’s about being more outgoing. I am not an extrovert. I often choose to be alone because I find it difficult to integrate into the community. But when I met this group of students, their enthusiasm had an infectious force, so you unconsciously fell into it. Their enthusiasm and vitality make me confident and dare to communicate with them!”
“With a mind to become a teacher in the future, I was excited to take responsibility for some English classes and bring them some fresh class experience.”
“This event made me cherish my life now, no longer complain about the living environment, no longer worry about small difficulties. Now I can do so many meaningful things, not because I am excellent, but because I am lucky enough.”
“I have learnt that I am lucky. My parents already give me a warm and comfortable home, the quality of my life is better than many other people in China. I should work harder, rather than complain.”
Qi Xiaotong, who is taking the IFT programme leading to a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management, was in the Volunteer Circle group that went to Congjiang County. “The most impressive part of the whole trip was that I could feel the students there truly welcomed us,” he says. “They invited us to their homes. They prepared small gifts for us when we were leaving.”
Xiaotong says the teaching project concentrated on giving pupils in Congjiang County new ways of improving their results in their English classes. “We wanted to build their enthusiasm for learning English and develop their interest in it, and to give them different ideas about how to study English,” he says. “We were not really teaching them, but opening a new window for them.”
Xiaotong urges his fellow undergraduates at IFT to do volunteer work. “Maybe I cannot bring about change for many people, but if I help one single person, that’s worthwhile enough,” he says.