A Volunteer in Beijing and Hong Kong

Edie is from New Zealand and before starting University in her home country she volunteered at New Hope in Beijing and was asked to spend time in HK as well…..

I spent the last two months of 2017 volunteering at the New Hope Foster Home in Beijing, and it was undoubtedly one of the best, most challenging and life changing experiences of my life so far. My time there was divided in two – I spent the first month at the orphanage helping out and running the preschool with other volunteers, and I spent most of the second month in Hong Kong with a sick baby, accompanying him while he had surgery there. These two months were amazing in very different ways, and despite the tough bits I don’t think I would change a thing.

jv website New Hope Edie with boy

 

 

November was a lovely month of getting to know the incredible kids and babies at New Hope. They’re all such happy and open souls that you forget the challenges they’ve been through in the short time they’ve been alive. Preschool ran from Monday to Friday and we would take around five classes a day, singing songs and doing crafts and just giving the kids something a bit different to do during the days. They absolutely loved coming to “class”; one of the wee boys there couldn’t really say a lot of words and would generally just say “abababa”, but one of the few things he could say was “SHANG KE” – “GO TO CLASS.” I felt so lucky to be able to spend time with all these fantastic kids and make a little difference in their lives. They won’t remember me but I’m so fortunate that I have all these lovely memories of them, and I so hope I’ll be able to connect with some of them in the future. New Hope is a really special place, all the staff are just as amazing as the kids and I loved being part of the crew there, even if it ended up being just for a few weeks.

 

At the end of November, I volunteered to take Nigel to Hong Kong for an important surgery. At the time he was only nine months old and very, very weak and unwell. I felt pretty unprepared for this task; I hadn’t ever changed a nappy before, let alone been entirely responsible for a little person’s safety and health. We made it to the hospital in HK after an extremely challenging flight and were then to learn that Nigel had a whole lot of other medical issues plaguing him. He would need weeks to recover and get back to full health before the planned surgery could go ahead. In this time, he and I bonded a lot and I fell in love with the little dude. I was amazed to see how fast he learned and developed and grew, and it didn’t take long at all until I was extremely attached. His resilience and strong spirit are incredible, and we had so many happy moments together.

 

On the other hand though, living 24/7 in a hospital room was really tough. The culture with volunteers and workers in Hong Kong is not like in New Zealand at all, and I was quite shocked at the expectations that were had of me by local staff (not New Hope but the group that they work with in HK). I was expected to stay in the room with him all day every day, without even popping out for just a ten-minute-long breather, and I was given just one day off a week. I was all about making sure Nigel was well looked after, but part of keeping him happy is keeping yourself happy too, and I felt completely drained, not being able to get a change of scene at least once a day. Perhaps if he had slept through the nights, things would have been better, but my sleep was extremely broken and I was so exhausted all the time.

jv website new hope Edie w Duo Duo

I was lucky though that Just Volunteers had someone in HK who came to relieve me once a day for the first week or so, but when she could not come and tried to send replacements someone at the HK organization put the foot down on that and I was completely confined to this room until the high-up people said I could go out. (It seemed that neither Just Volunteers nor New Hope could control this situation.) I found this extremely difficult and for lack of a better word, inhumane. As I voiced my concerns I accidentally offended the high-ups in HK more than intended, and I was sent back to Beijing early, before Nigel had even had his surgery. Part of me jumped for joy at this, that I would finally get my freedom back, but the other part felt like it was being broken into a million pieces and I felt so sad and guilty that I would have to leave Nigel without any familiar faces. I’m appreciative though that there was a nurse there who sent me updates on how he was getting on, videos and photos and info on his surgeries, because I missed him intensely and still do even now. It was such a shame about the situation there; had things been easier on me, it would have been a lot different and easier to cope with the pressure of looking after a baby. I learnt a lot there though and he made it worth all the bad bits.

jv website new hope vols with kids

Working with the kids at New Hope is an experience I don’t think you could match anywhere else. I loved my short time there and it opened up my mind to so much, and the relationships and bonds made with these small people are so, so special. Leaving both HK and Beijing was really hard for me, but it really does change your life and I just feel so lucky to have been given the chance to be there. A massive thank you to Josephine at Just Volunteers for the ongoing support and advice.

jv website new hope Duo Duo

 

Edie

Posted in Volunteers' Stories

HK Volunteering opportunity closed for this Summer!

Every summer Just Volunteers! works with the Chinese YMCA of HK and Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation to provide three 7-day English summer camps for a total of 240 disadvantaged local HK children. Each  group is hosted by the Hong Kong Country Club.

The programme is run with the support of 5 undergraduates or recent graduates from British universities and 10 undergraduates from the English Department of the City University of Hong Kong.

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This year we advertized publicly for the first time and would like to thank all those who applied.

We have now filled all the positions for 2018 but if you would be interested in volunteering in 2019 please remember to contact us towards the end of this year to get more details.

Thank you!

Posted in Just Volunteers! News

Roberto’s 10 weeks in Malaysia

 Roberto is originally from Spain and is studying at Warwick University from where he applied to the Building Bridges Beyond Borders  Programme .  He spent 10 weeks last summer based at the Pure Life Society in Kuala Lumpur, a home for children run on an interdenominational basis, where he helped lead a number of extra curricular activities for the older boys. 

I spent my summer at the Pure Life Society, in Kuala Lumpur. The PLS is a well-established home for underprivileged children, which houses around 60 mainly racially Indian kids. I had a room near where the senior boys stayed (aged 13-17) and spent my evenings with them. The food at PLS is vegetarian and very nice. Over time, I felt like PLS was a big family in which I became very well integrated.

The first tasks that were given to me were to produce the PLS bulletin and to train the children for a spelling competition where we would compete against other homes. When the day came, we won the competition in all three age categories! Also, I requested to teach maths to a small group and after a few weeks, I started giving maths lessons every Thursday.

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After winning the spelling competition!

 

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Maths class in progress

I got hold of an old guitar they have in PLS and tuned it, and the kids became really keen to learn some chords. There was also a drum kit that hadn’t been used for years. I taught a few rhythms to one of the kids who was extremely good at it. Later in a PLS talent show, we performed ‘Let It Be’ together: while I sang and played the keyboard, he played the drum set – he was so proud of himself!

jv bbbb picture guitar lesson PLS

Guitar lesson!

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The Talent Show

Generally, my role there was to be a big brother to the kids. I acted as an example to them, I hanged out with them, helped them with homework, told them interesting facts about me and about Spain, Europe and the world, always answered their never-ending curious questions, and sometimes even played football despite my lack of skill (they love football – they ended up teaching me about Spanish football, faced with my lack of knowledge of it).

jv bbbb picture Roberto w boys

Making a National Day Poster

Also, I became a good friend of [-, one of the staff members at PLS], and had long conversations about the home and the children, giving my point of view, which she always found valuable.

It is true that, often, especially in the mornings and afternoons while the kids were in school, I found there was little to do, and I often killed time by learning the Malay language (although at PLS, Tamil is the native language) or doing other things, and during weekends I went on trips around Malaysia and visited friends. That is why I recommend to other volunteers who come to PLS that they combine their stay here with another project in Kuala Lumpur, and that they have a certain degree of initiative which sometimes becomes crucial.

jv bbbb picture Roberto w staff

Roberto with PLS Staff Summer 2017

Submitted January 2018

 

Posted in Volunteers' Stories

‘Twelve Weeks of Joy’ Monica and Magnus finish their time in KL

jv bbbb picture Magnus and monica

Monica and Magnus did a great job of volunteering under the Building Bridges Beyond Borders programme in Malaysia in 2017…..

We quit our jobs at the beginning of this year to go travelling and volunteering in South East Asia. After a few months of travelling in five countries, we began our volunteering placement at [the Myanmar refugee school in Kuala Lumpur].

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Magnus and Monica heading to school on Day 1

Out of the many months we spent in Asia, the three months we had with the kids were the most amazing of them all. It’s easy to understand why the moment you step into the school…

The kids are relentless, so eager to play and learn and chat, and of course snuggle!

It’s impossible to be a stranger here. As soon as you walk through the door, dozens of little ones start jumping up and down and all over you, yelling out their names at the top of their lungs. “Teacher!!! Me, S-A-R-A, you?” In their world, there are no awkward introductions or much debate before they invite you to play.

And so we started our first day, telling them about us and where we come from, not knowing what to say when asked why we are so incredibly tall, and asking them about their secret ability (most are stars at football, singing, and drawing).

Both of us taught to C (age 8-11), D (age 12-13) and E (age 13-16) groups. I taught English Grammar and Language and IT, and Magnus covered Maths and Science. We took turns teaching Geography, which was a subject all kids really loved.

Although being perceived as the fun teacher was very tempting, we both focused on teaching the children as much as possible in the time we were there. We made up competitions, educational games, we gave them exams, and really tried to offer them the structure and discipline they need.

The following three months with them just flew by, doing a lot of teaching, playing, being naughty, winning and losing in competitions, and burning LOTS of calories. Although the days were super hot, the A/C barely worked and the carpet was smelly (rat pee), teaching these kids was the most amazing experience of our lives.

JV bbbb picture playground kids

These are kids that don’t have much, but their love of life is infectious, and certainly puts things into perspective. Meeting them has been life-changing for us both and has made us realise how many things we take for granted, in life, in Europe, in general.

These kids are so uncomplicated and happy with the little they have. They have a deep sense of camaraderie and if they own an extra piece of candy, they will offer it to their friend or teacher. Stuff like that makes you love them so much and makes you feel so privileged to have met such kind people.

jv bbbb picture monica with kids

Posted in Volunteers' Stories

Constance Returns from Teaching in Kuala Lumpur

This summer Constance came to teach at a Myanmar refugee school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia through our Building Bridges Beyond Borders programme. Constance is French and is studying in the UK.  She is now back at University in the UK and sent us this post.
JV BBBB picture C teaching
The summer I spent at the [Myanmar Refugee] school has been the most intense experience I have ever had in my life. Being a volunteer teacher was not easy everyday but it was most definitely a rewarding, worthwhile, and fulfilling experience.

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I am so glad I had the chance to come teach at the school. Doing a volunteering mission has always been something I wanted to do, and being able to travel to the other of the world to do so made the BBBB project even more appealing.
JV BBBB picture Class with Constance
It has been challenging on every level, personal as professional. But in the end, I got a lot out of it and hopefully came out a better person.
JV BBBB picture Eva, Miza, Cons
Having the opportunity to learn about another culture, discovering an unknown region, teaching children and encouraging them to study hard and dream big, all these have not only shaped and enriched my life but it has also enabled me to reflect in-depth on my future and my desire to take on new adventures. It made this summer unforgettable.
JV BBBB picture group pic
Posted in Volunteers' Stories

Edie Teaches English in Vietnam

Just Volunteers has no approved projects in Vietnam but we are in touch with an impressive young woman who runs an English Club for local young people in her Hmong community in north east Vietnam. We introduced Edie and she became the first foreign volunteer to spend time in the village helping with the club. Here are her thoughts.

We are happy to introduce interested volunteers although we cannot vouch for the project directly. 

 

My time volunteering in NH (Northeast Vietnam)

JV Na Hang picture w girls

Edie with friends/students from the village

 

The Wake Up  …. English Club is a small club in the north of Vietnam, helping local ethnic minority children to learn English. It is not one of Just Volunteers’ projects, but after being put in contact with the club’s founder, SG, by Josephine, I decided to give it a go and spend a month there, despite no other foreign volunteers having been in the past! Now my placement there is over, I’m able to look back and realise that although there were a lot of challenging points, all in all it was an incredible, unique experience that I’m grateful to have had.

jv Na Hang picture dancing w kids

English class for the little ones 

 

NH is a six hour bus trip north of Hanoi. It’s a very small town – I’m not sure of the population, but there is no supermarket, if that’s a reliable indicator of size! Being so isolated, there are very few people who know any English, and most of them have little to no experience with foreigners. So, as you can imagine, I was quite the celebrity. I don’t remember one instance that I went out without being stared at, waved at or spoken to. People were generally friendly though, despite my very low level of Vietnamese meaning I couldn’t really communicate with anyone. I enjoyed the local food, and there was heaps of fruit available as well, and it was all so cheap! I would normally buy noodles or soup for breakfast, for just 10, 000 Vietnamese dong, which is about 44 US cents.

JV Na Hang picture children in class

The classroom doubles as the volunteers’ bedroom in the evenings

The English club has about 40 students, and this number is growing. At the local schools, children do get taught English but their teachers can’t actually speak good English themselves, and so when S opened the club last year, she had to start with the very basics, even for secondary students who had been learning the language for years. Nothing deters S though – she is the most passionate and motivated woman I’ve ever met. She is so committed to helping her students improve their English because she knows what a powerful tool it will be for their futures. Most of the kids I talked to were very sheltered and were happy to find a job in NH after they finish school, but a few of them talked about wanting to travel, wanting to go to university, one secondary student shyly told me she wants to study in Australia. Although the English club is just a small community set-up, it’s really going to help the students a lot, and it’s an opportunity they would never find elsewhere in NH.

jv Na Hang picture waterfall

S and her daughter take Edie out for the day

Similarly, S inviting volunteers to the club also helps students expand their horizons and learn about what life is like outside of NH. While I was there, I tried to help as much as I could with improving the children’s confidence levels and pretty much just getting them speaking English as much as possible. There would be a class of little kids every evening, and they loved singing and playing games so we did a lot of that, as well as working on their pronunciation. They were all so keen to learn, despite their limited attention spans, and I’m going to miss them belting out “HEADS SHOULDERS KNEES AND TOES” every night! The older students were also very keen to learn but a lot more shy, and any question I asked resulted in a lengthy consultation with the other students in Vietnamese about the best way to answer.

I had a lot of down time in NH during the week while the students were at school, and that was a bit tedious as there wasn’t much for me to do in the town, and there weren’t many people I could make friends with because of the language barrier. Despite this, I loved the English teaching and the time somehow flew. Before I knew it, it was time to catch the bus back to Hanoi. Staying in NH was incredibly eye-opening, and I know how lucky I am to have been able to experience a place so exceedingly different from my own country. I hope S’s English club will continue to grow and expand, because it is truly a life-changer for the community.

JV Na hang picture mountains lake

Local scenery

Posted in Volunteers' Stories

A Malaysian Volunteer in KL Recounts Experiences of Working with Myanmar Refugees

In the Building Bridges Beyond Borders (BBBB) programme in Malaysia we have local volunteers joining us every year. RM gives her thoughts on the refugee school where she has been a volunteer teacher in the programme for several months.
Hello, I am a local volunteer at  [Myanmar Refugees school] in KL. I have been a volunteer for seven months as I am writing this. It has been an absolutely wonderful journey and I feel blessed to be granted this opportunity to teach the young refugees that are currently residing in Malaysia.
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RM teaching at the school
JV website BBBB MRCLC science class
A science class being held safely outside
 JV website bbbb mrclc class
A Student leads his class
    After a few months of volunteering as teacher, I learned to adapt and be comfortable with the environment. Growing up in Malaysia, and then spent my high school and masters degree UK, I never noticed how privileged I have been. Even the children realise how different I am compared to them. Nevertheless, they were willing to fully accept me the way I am. They overlooked the differences and chat with me and makes me feel belonged. They tell me their stories and their journey. They talked to me about their experience of living in Malaysia as a refugee.
jv website bbbb MRCLC girls working
Girls working hard in class
    Malaysia does not acknowledge refugees and they are treated as equal to illegal immigrants. Children are not allowed to go to school, parents are not allowed to get a job to support their family. The situation is complicated indeed. Despite the hardship they experience, their smiles brighten my day. Thinking no matter how bad things get, as long as they have each other and as long as they can sleep, eat and breath (though in fear with unpredictable future), they are content. It is something that many of us can’t imagine.
    Volunteering taught me so many things. One of my favourite is that money does not make me happy but doing what I love does – which is providing knowledge and helping others. Getting the chance to teach children how to do experiments, how to use computers, to read, speak and sometimes even becoming their counselor has been amazing. I never thought I could be so sociable because I am an introvert.
jv website bbbb mrclc child's drawing
RM has been working with a child who was severely traumatized, when he started doing drawings for her she realised he was beginning to find some positive meaning in his life.
    Finally, this experience inspired me to work harder to help those that are unfortunate in Malaysia. In addition to that, I have decided to be more politically involve to help change the refugee situations in Malaysia. This will take time but I would like to stay optimistic. For now, I am working to get continuous funding for the school to stay active for the sake of the young children. Education should not be a privilege but a right given to all despite their status.”
Hoping the future will be sweeter than the past!
JV website bbbb mrclc desert
Posted in Volunteers' Stories

A Group of UK Students Teach for 6 Weeks in HK at the SPICE Summer Programme

Every Summer  we take a small group of native English speaking volunteers to work with HK undergraduate interns to run the Summer Programme for Immersion in Communicative English (SPICE) for disadvantaged local children. This programme is made possible by the generous support of Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation and the Chinese YMCA of HK.

This year’s UK group just sent the following report of their experience.

Our experience volunteering in Hong Kong this past summer is one that will stay in our memory for a very long time. The SPICE programme gives the incredible opportunity to spend six weeks in Hong Kong, one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

jv website TSW2017girl runningjv website TSW2017 Masks

When most people think of Hong Kong they fail to recognise that many people do struggle and are in disadvantaged situations; however, by joining the SPICE programme we attained the ability to help these children whether it was through teaching them English or by giving them an escape from their day to day life through activities and fun games.

jv website TSW2017Balloon

The most rewarding aspect of the programme has been seeing the children grow in confidence, both in themselves and in their English ability. The children are very grateful of the opportunity they are presented with and it is extremely fulfilling to be a part of this.

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Working with the SPICE programme over 6 weeks has allowed us to gain genuine and practical work experience in the teaching industry, more than most internships would. It has been an invaluable experience as we have gained a range of teaching skills and have been introduced to many fantastic people.  SPICE allows you to work in a small team of Hong Kong interns and UK volunteers to create an active and inspiring programme for the students.

jv website TSW2017Peak Outing

Everyone worked well together to ensure we could deliver the best programme possible.  The support and guidance from our experienced programme co-ordinators gave us the confidence to create a full syllabus for the children thus making the programme our own as we had a real impact on what was taught.  It was a joy and a challenge learning how to accommodate the needs of a variety of students with different learning abilities. It helped us expand our skill set while knowing we were having a positive influence on the students’ learning.

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Accommodation was organised for us through the YMCA and so it was easy to meet likeminded volunteers from all over the world.  Volunteering with the SPICE programme also provided us with the opportunity to explore Hong Kong and delve into a culture different to our own. We would encourage anyone considering applying to the SPICE programme to do so as we can safely say we’ve had the summer of a lifetime.   The experience was very rewarding for everyone involved and we hope to return to Hong Kong one day, potentially to continue the work that was done here.

jv website TSW2017 HKCC outing

 

Marie, Issy, Sophie, James and Daniel

 

 

 

Posted in Volunteers' Stories

Sam Reflects on a Challenging but Moving Summer in Mongolia

jv website lotus big sky 2017jv website Lotus volley ball

 

Mongolia is the type of country which can seriously test one’s

own capabilities to live in such a different and unique environment. It is

not like any other country I have been to. My time in Mongolia was one

of the best, the worst, and most interesting experiences of my life. And

despite the obvious flaws I came across, it has bettered me as a human

being, and opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Upon arriving in Chinggis Airport, I was greeted by my well meaning taxi driver (I was blissfully unaware of the fortune she was going to charge me for the ride). I went straight to the lotus guest house where I could acclimatise and sort myself out, and without going into great detail that didn’t work very well for me. Nevertheless, two days later I arrived at Lotus Children’s Centre in Gachhurt (about 28km east of Ulaanbator). My first action and response was to soulfully stare at the breathtaking mountainous scenery.

jv website lotus scenery 2017

My day to day role was very dependent on what the kids wanted to do, I discovered that I could not simply make a repeating schedule for the kids to take part in,  something like a class, otherwise they would get bored and stop attending. I would have to ask the kids if they wanted to take a guitar or art or English class with me before actually doing the class. Most days I would teach guitar to a couple children at a time, we then would either play basketball, football, volleyball, and on some days we (volunteers) would organise a competition for all the kids to take part in, which they all loved.

jv website lotus guitar lessonjv website Lotus at the river

On some days we would organise for the kids to either come on

a hike with myself and the other volunteers, or maybe walk down to

the nearby river where they could swim in the freezing cold water – which

on the hot days was such a special thing to do.

The food that we had to eat was simple and basic, but home

cooked and actually easy to get used to and actually became quite

nice (psychologically), it would consist of a few main ingredients

including rice, potatoes, onions, carrots, noodles and select

vegetables. Only so often would we ever get meat.

Showering and keeping clean was a massive difficulty for us volunteers (being western and not used to the living conditions).  I was very lucky with the time I arrived as Lotus had recently installed a new toilet and showering facility solely for the volunteers only. So there was running water in these facilities, however hot water was non existent. The facility did come with a small boiler to heat up the water, however shortly after it was connected to the electrics it blew the fuse box and the wires thanks to the incorrect wiring and lack of electrical knowledge from the Mongolian electricians.

jv website lotus gardening 2017

However, as I stated before, the flaws are massively

overshadowed. I discovered one thing about Lotus which I wasn’t

expecting to discover, and I certainly didn’t think it would be the

highlight of my trip, but for me it came out on top. It was the

connection and relationship I built with the kids.

jv website lotus riding 2017

The children are so wonderful, so independent, so exciting, and so generous with their love and kindness. This was the most rewarding thing I took away from being at Lotus. The children made the entire trip worthwhile, and I will never forget them. Each day I had so much love and kindness given to me, they love their volunteers who come to Lotus, they treat them with respect and show them their souls. It was the most amazing feeling being able to connect with them like this when they have had such difficult lives.

jv website lotus wrestling 2017

 

Posted in Volunteers' Stories

Changeover of Volunteers

As mentioned in her last blog, the students from Alexia’s old school raised 190 euros for the refugee school by organising a bake sale. Later in the spring her sister and other members of her family managed to raise additional funds to make many needed improvements at the school.
Alexia takes up the story.
I  bought some things for the school with that money and gave the rest to… [the Head] and she used it to repair the broken walls at school (they are doing this literally whilst I am writing to you so this is a live update!)
My sister is part of a club at my old high school which has also donated 300 euros.
Another ongoing project is to buy pads for the girls at school….. I thought it was unacceptable that these poor teenage girls didn’t always have pads and sometimes missed school (a common problem in the developing world – Ed.)  so I was going to buy a bunch of them for the school to keep there. I told E…[Volunteer coordinator] about this and she suggested that we buy re-usable and washable pads instead. I thought it was a great idea and because these are quite expensive, we thought about finding people to sponsor the project. I told my mum about it and she has been able to get a phenomenal response to her appeal! This should allow us to buy the packs we wanted. It’s from a brand called Bamboolite. …..I’m so excited about this!
In fact, with the additional money we have been able to fix so many things that need to be fixed at school. We bought a new printer; we are about to repair the floor in A class and change the carpet in C and D class as well as buying two new tables for the small kids. We will also fix the toilet doors and get a new water filter to replace the old broken one. If there is any money left, we will get a new computer for the IT room and give the rest to the volunteers currently at the school so they can use it to buy school supplies.
Alexia has just left the school finally after extending her volunteering period several times.  M…and M… our most recent volunteers are there with Miza now and have been an enormous success. He has been teaching the boys at the welding academy and both women have recently run a woman’s empowerment seminar.JV Mrclc Alexia latest2JV MRCLC Alexia latest
Posted in Uncategorised, Volunteers' Stories