December 28-30th, a group of 20 volunteers from Church of All Nations and HKIS went to work with CWEF scholarship students in Deqing, China. The Winter Camp provided English lessons to more than 50 girls. The scholarship recipients visited during this trip are all supported by EMBER. The following reflection was written by one of the volunteer trip leaders.
“The highlight of the trip for most Hong Kong participants was the enthusiasm for learning that these girls exhibited throughout the 3-day camp. As soon as our lessons began, they gave us their utmost attention. Their palpable desire to learn confirmed that the scholarships are a wise investment in the girls’ future.
Given the challenging home situations these girls face, their acceptance to high school speaks of their persistence to learn. To enroll at either school where the girls attend – Xiang Shan or Confucius Middle Schools – students need to score in the top 1/3 of the country. As these are the two top schools in the area, the scholarship recipients are all high achievers.
In conversation with the girls, we were surprised to learn their daily schedule. Their first class is at 6:50 AM. They have about two hours in the middle of the day for lunch and a nap, and then they have afternoon classes. After dinner, they have additional study sessions in their classrooms from 7-10 at night. They get back to their rooms around 10:15, and lights go out by 11:30 PM. They have classes all week; Sunday is the only day off for students. Our respect for the girls grew when we visited their dormitory. Each room has 6 bunk beds. The twelve girls in a room share one bathroom facility. The beds are planks of wood with no mattresses to sleep on. No lighting is available during the day, so reading a textbook during mid-day hours requires a battery-powered light. With a cold front bringing near 0-degree temperatures on Saturday night, staying warm is also a challenge for the girls.
Our English lessons focused on the theme of giving during the Christmas holiday season. Students read O. Henry’s classic story, ‘The Gift of the Magi’ in the morning. In the afternoon, the students learned about the tradition of Santa Claus. The key reading piece was ‘On Santa’s Team.’ Both stories emphasize the idea that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
In keeping with the theme, the scholarship girls and the Hong Kong group visited a local elderly home. The girls were just as attentive to the elderly as they were to our lessons. When we returned to their schools, they expressed how much they enjoyed helping older people, a form of learning that is not generally part of their education.
For the volunteers, the great gift of this Christmas trip was to meet such hard-working students who give so generously of themselves to us, to their teachers, to their fellow students, and to the elderly that we visited.”