Archive for the ‘ Volunteer Work ’ Category

One Week & Two Days Left in China

August 4, 2011 6:16 am | 1 Comment

Last Monday (7/25) and this Wednesday (8/3) I reached more blocks in my Chinese.  It just made the elderly home a little more difficult.  But I am always able to help and still make them happy anyway.  I found a place to develop photos so I could give some of the pictures I took to the elderly and autistic children.  The elderly were especially happy that I did that.  I have never seen someone so happy to have a photo!  Huang Yeye (Huang Grandpa) put the pictures in his hat and would constantly look at them every few minutes.  Then he asked me to put the pictures in his room but Wang Yeye told me that Huang Yeye does not even know where his room is… (he just has a minor mental disability… if I heard right his wife was murdered…but it could just be me mixing up Chinese words!!) I’m so glad that I can make them happy!!  And for the last few days at the elderly home I will be teaching a few of them some English!

At the autistic school Last Tuesday (7/26) I focused on one boy because his emotions were all over the place.  He was hitting, screaming, throwing things, crying and would randomly calm down for a few minutes.  This boy is 2 years old and just began showing symptoms of autism.  His mother was so frustrated but patient for a while.  Once her patience grew short, she slapped him really hard on the face.  This left a horrible bruise.  I encouraged her a lot and told her that she was a great mother either way.  Then that Thursday (7/28) the boy was again not stable.  I went over to try and help.  He was wearing a tank top that day and I saw bruises on every inch of his arms and back.  I am talking about REALLY large bruises that cover whole sections of his body.  It is really hard to see especially since I cannot do anything about it.  This boy seemed to just really want some love.  When one of the teachers gave him a hug he would stop throwing a tantrum and hug the teacher back.  But his father was with him that day and was not patient at all.  At one point he was grabbing his son’s neck like he was going to choke him or something!!  It is so sad.

Some parents will be patient and kind to their disabled child, but there are some really depressed parents that do not treat them the right way.  But then I really have to realize that the parents at this school actually kept their children instead of abandoning them in the first place.  Many mentally or physically disabled children will be abandoned because it is shameful in the Chinese culture.  There are also so many expectations from Chinese parents.  Having a “imperfect” child is a bad “investment.”  Most people can only have one child because of the one-policy in China.  Some will have a second child if they are rich and can pay a crazy amount of money.

After being there for over a month I have JUST now realized that I have really only seen a select few autistic girls.  Most of the children at the school are boys.  It actually makes a lot of sense because many families want a son instead of a daughter.  So having a girl that is autistic is the worst combination and these girls will most likely will be abandoned.  The few girls that I have interacted with at the autistic school are just so precious…  It really makes me think that there are some really great parents at the autistic school and I admire them for not giving into what is “acceptable” in the Chinese society.

Brother and Sister - they are amazing children!

Helping in the Music Class

I have really gotten attached to these children.  The little boy in my previous blog post, who has the paper ring on his ear, will always be wearing them on his ears after his art class.  I think his mom uses it as a reward now – if he can cut these shapes then he gets to wear them on his ears haha…  Another boy only participates in the exercises in music class because he really likes me a lot and will only listen to me.  It is interesting because I have only seen him show any kind of emotion when he around me.  His grandma is so happy to see this!  I have also told some parents, who have children that refuse to talk, about the story in the United States where an autistic boy began speaking with his dog (see previous blog post for the short story).

So aside from my amazing learning experiences, I took a little trip this past weekend.  I went with one of my friends from the Keats School to Dali (大理).  It is a small city about 5 hours away from Kunming. 

We took the Sleepers Bus so I didn't have to miss class or volunteering on Friday and we could still have all of Saturday...very very interesting experience...I'm not sure how often they wash the sheets, but in the morning they just folded the covers for the next group

Dali wish Belmont was there haha

Took a horse to LITERALLY climb the mountain... no, I did not know that it was literally going to climb straight up. Two hours up, one hour on the mountain, two hours down.

Pretty close to the top of CangShan (Cang Mountain)...yes, the horse climbed the whole way and if the horse ever fell I would have been (seriously) injured. It was an adventure!


I got to hold a monkey at the top of the mountain!!

I came down from CangShan with the horse from one of those hills over in the distance...

Picture of Dali University and Pagado is all taken during my horse ride

I loved Dali!  First, I just LOVE mountains.  Next, it really reminded me of Tibet(I went last year with the Belmont Study Abroad group).  Then I really like cities in China that keep their traditional style.  It was a great place to relax and see something different.

I miss China already and I haven’t even left yet!

Constantly Learning

July 29, 2011 6:03 am | 3 Comments

I just spend over an hour writing on my blog but the internet completely messed up and then it erased my entire blog post :( I already posted it and everything but I looked back and it was completely gone like I never even posted anything!  For now I will post the pictures that I had in my post but I will come back later to write the stories that I lost…

This is Huang Yeye - 79 years old - he has a mental disability but it is not extreme - he smiles until it is time to pose for a picture haha

Me and another volunteer (she is from Spain) with an autistic child

Music Class

Only 3 years old and already practicing characters

Helping in "art class" and making it a little fun by putting the paper he cut on his ears! Even though his mother is constantly wanting perfection, I think she was really happy that I could make her son laugh and smile!

All I really want to say is that it has been a great week and I have been learning so much from this whole experience as a volunteer in China.  Since volunteering in China is still not a regular thing in some places I have not had anyone tell me to go there, do this, do that, etc… I have had to decide things on my own to help in the best way possible.  I think that has really caused me to become a leader.  I never even knew I had this in my personality until now.  All of this is hard and tiring but definitely so rewarding!

Long Week

July 22, 2011 11:37 am | No Comments

This Thursday was the hardest day of volunteering yet.  I have had a very busy and long week going to both places to volunteer, waiting really long for extremely crowed buses, long Chinese classes, and studying after it all.   So I was particularly exhausted on Thursday.  My brain just would not and could not comprehend Chinese that day.  At home I usually reach a block in my Chinese every few months.  Since I am forced to use it all the time in China, I have reached a block every week.  I know that it will pass after a day or two and when it does I am ten times better.  So I look forward to the language block… but when it happens on a day when I am extremely tired, it is not a great combination.

On Thursday I helped out in the Autistic School’s art class.  This class was more like “playtime” where the children could work with puzzles, cut shapes, trace, etc.  A parent/grandparent was with their child so that made it a little more difficult.  First I spent time with a girl who is 3 years old.  She is so cute and extremely bright for a 3 year old!  Her mother did not really think so, though.  The girl’s mother was constantly yelling at her because she could not put a badly made puzzle together correctly.  At one point, even the mother put some pieces together wrong!!  How do you expect a little 3 year old child with autism to do it correctly then?  She was also yelled at because she could not use the scissors correctly while cutting paper shapes.  I honestly think that they should not be holding scissors at 3 years old.  Besides, her hands were almost too tiny to hold them!  The mother had no patience at all.  There is just so many expectations from some Chinese parents.

That was nothing compared to what I saw next.  All of a sudden out of no where, I heard really loud yelling and hitting noises.  I looked over and saw a grandmother slapping her grandson on the head, face, and pinching him really hard because he could not trace shapes PEFECTLY.  He could follow the lines but not PERFECTLY.  I was so angry.  This boy is 6 years old and has a severe case of autism.  He cannot speak at all and did not even understand why his grandma was hitting him!  All he could do was cry.  I immediately had to help him.  I grabbed a chair to sit beside them both.  His grandmother was holding his hand so tightly and tracing the shapes for him (what a way to teach, huh).  Since I sat down next to them, the boy was distracted and turned his head to look and smile at me.  When he looked over, she immediately slapped his face and held his head down towards the tracing paper.  It was so rude!  I decided to distract the grandmother a little bit and asked her how old he was, what his name was, and then I began to help him trace the shapes myself by slightly directing his hand movement.  He actually traced them really well!  I made sure to compliment him the entire way through.  She finally walked away angrily to watch from a distance.  A few minutes later, another member of his family came to sit beside us and told him that if he traced it badly then his grandma would hit him…literally.  This family member also told me that he was really sick the day before so that is why he was not tracing so well.  She was almost apologizing to me for his “bad” tracing.  All of this is being said in Chinese and I was trying so hard not to look completely shocked.  All the while, the boy just wanted to be hugged and comforted.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve seen during my volunteering.

Well that was depressing… how about something a little happier?

How about seeing the CUTEST BABY EVER on my way to volunteer

Yeah, that's right, I have Harry Potter 7-Part 2! Can't turn down a bootleg for 10 kuai ($1.50) in China. Amazing movie!! Very rewarding after a long week...


July 16, 2011 6:53 am | No Comments

After a short time of volunteering at the School for Autistic Children, I realize that this is the wrong place for me to be.  It is a good school with a great purpose, but I am not able to really help these children.  I have observed their music class, one on one therapy class, and gym class.  However since these children are autistic, they are having an extremely hard time getting comfortable with me.  Even the teachers have a hard time in class and they have been teaching the child for months or years.  It makes me wish that I was a doctor or therapist so I could help them!  At the same time, the parents are always by their child’s side and there are a lot teachers constantly helping at this school.  I feel like this school does not necessarily need anymore help.  The building is not the best quality but they seem to have everything they need and I was  almost more of a distraction by being there.

This school is just always showing me how great they are and how much they help the autistic children. That is wonderful!!  But so far I feel like the owner has been enjoying practicing his basic English with me while the children are in their classes.  Each day I have been waiting for the opportunity to help but I just seem to do less each day.  I have tried playing with the kids and conversing with ones that are not as severe but it is still extremely difficult and they are always playing with their parents or being carried around.  Since I am not that helpful, I decided to find somewhere else to give my assistance.

I would say it was a great experience because I got to see how a different culture interacts with their autistic children.  Because mental and physical disabilities were looked down on for a long time in China (and even still is), they are not as experienced as some schools in other areas of the world (such as the United States).  I did not agree with some of their exercises for the children, but there is no way for me to change the way their teachers do things.  At the same time, I am no expert at all on autism.

I talked with the Keats School and they immediately understood my observations.  When I expressed to them that I wanted to find a place where I could give more help, they said that I could volunteer at an elderly home. What they said next surprised me!  They told me that most people do not like to work with the elderly in China and thought I wouldn’t be willing to do that work.  One reason is because they are old and many people like to work with children.  Also the conditions in which the elders live are really bad and many are not very clean. That is why they sent me to the School for Autistic Children. If many people do not want to do this then I REALLY (I cannot emphasis REALLY enough) want to volunteer there.  I was a little disappointed that the Keats School did not give me all my options in the first place.  But here is something that I have seen several times in the Chinese culture – they do not always want you to see the worst of the worst and they want to make sure that “Westerners” are as comfortable as possible. So it was all out of good intentions. 

Below is an extremely great video that Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn showed in one of my classes.  It gives a little information on the elderly and elderly homes in China.  (I was able to find a paid secure server that allows me to view blocked sites in China)

BUT LET ME JUST SAY, the elderly home I went to see today is NOTHING like the one in that youtube video.  The elderly home was even concerned that it would be “too harsh conditions” for me to volunteer in.  They wanted to call a nicer elderly home for me to volunteer in!  I insisted more than a few times that I wanted to stay and volunteer there.  So for the next month, I will take the bus every afternoon on the weekdays to volunteer at that elderly home.  I know I will see some really hard things in the next four weeks, but this is real life for them.  I am ready to face it and hopefully I can give them some happiness.

Street Life and Volunteering

July 13, 2011 11:43 am | No Comments

I have begun my volunteer work at the school for autistic children!  I will be there Monday thru Friday for 3 hours each day. It is really going to be difficult work on many levels. 

At 1:30pm everyday I will walk to a particular bus stop to go to the autistic school.  I will volunteer from 3-5pm and then get back on the bus during rush hour to return to the Keats School.   It only takes 15 minutes at the most on my way there.  During rush hour there are a lot of people on the bus and it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to get back to my school.  Only the owner can speak a tiny bit of English, so I will only be able to use Chinese while I am there.  The children do not have the most severe case of autism but there is only one more level of severity above them.  The ages of the children are from about 3 to 8 years old (give or take).  If the children are really young the parents can take the classes with them.  The owner really wants me to talk with the parents as well.  I should get used to it soon and I think it will really improve my Chinese.

School Information Book, News, and Advice

"Let us get together, and give children more"

The Lobby and Family waiting room

Hallway that leads to the playrooms and classrooms

Exercise/Balance/Activity Room

When the children get to know me and are comfortable around me, I will be able to get pictures with them.  For now I just took pictures of the school itself.  The building is very low quality, no airconditioning, and a lot of open areas for mosquitos to get in.  All the pictures you see above are the main parts of the building (excluding the playrooms and classrooms).  Everything is on one floor except for the gym, which is also used as a storage/junk area.  

I learned that maybe in the next year they will have to move to a different location because the city of Kunming wants to destore the building they are in, and build a skyscraper in its place.  It is really sad because China will sacrafice an autistic school for modernization.  This is a huge issue and going on everywhere in China right now.

I have been exploring the city of Kunming before my volunteer work began.  I am glad that I had some time to become familiar with the local area and also get used to the bus system.  I have seen many sides of Kunming – rich and poor. 

The pictures that I will post below may be disturbing.  They are of disabled and poor beggars on the street.  I see them around every corner.  I just want you all to be aware of what I see everyday.  Many of the disabled beggars are owned by gangs so giving them money will only help the gang members.  Also many of these people were kidnapped at a very young age and purposely disabled by the gangs.  I feel so helpless because there is not much that I can do for them.

He ends up at a different part of the city everyday...only someone else could move him and his things

There are some people that I can help, though.  And I will help with any chance that I get.  The look on her face cannot be described by words.  It looked like she had not eaten in a very long time and was too shocked to even say anything for a while.  It was a great feeling.

I had some really good leftovers from my dinner so I decided to find someone to give it to instead of taking it back for myself

Instead of going to an expensive hotel or area to get a massage, I found a place that gives blind people a chance to have a good life.  They do their best job and are the nicest people you will ever meet!

It is suppose to say "Blind Massage"

Such great and hard working people who are looked down on and taken advantage of by many people in the Chinese society

 On a somewhat happier note, here is man who actually enjoys sitting on the road with his dog and playing his Erhu (Chinese violin).

They match and have the same smile :)


about image Henna Jurca is a Senior at Belmont University in Nashville, TN with a major in Asian Studies and minor in Chinese. Henna will be volunteering and studying through the Keats School in Kunming, China."