In 2007, HKIS and the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation began partnering on an exciting project: sponsoring talented, but underprivileged female high school students right across our border in Guangdong Province to enable them to continue their educational journey. Over the years I have led several trips a year to visit the girls and support this program. On December 16-18, a group of 25 from HKIS visited an equal number of girls in our Jiangmen scholarship program.
The high point of the trip was giving our scholarship recipients the same kind of experience with service-learning that our HKIS students value so highly. On Saturday morning, our group used English materials to help the girls consider two significant social issues in modern-day China, care for orphans and the elderly.
Following study of the issues, in the afternoon we visited a local elderly home and orphanage that was only a few minutes by bus from the school. We sang songs, played games with the children, and listened to the stories of the elderly. One of the girls even found that a “paw-paw” (grandmother) of a classmate lived at the home, and they exchanged phone numbers.
Two hours later we returned to school, and each student wrote and delivered a speech in English about their reflections on the day. The girls reacted in ways that were strikingly similar to our HKIS students – a sense of awakening to social realities, compassion for those who have less opportunities than they have, and consideration of future actions. One young woman explained in her speech that she had a renewed appreciation for her parents, despite past tensions in their relationship, and that she was going to return home the next day and cook a special meal for them. The insight that I take away from this experience is that reactions to service learning, whether one attends HKIS or a Chinese school in Guangdong, seem pretty universal: through service students find joy in self-reflection that expands their circle of care. It is rewarding for us to not only provide financial support for these girls, but to actually participate in providing a modicum of the same kind of education that we value at HKIS for scholarship recipients in China .
Note: On last year’s trip, my family and I had the chance to visit the home of the girl who is giving the speech above (and she’s in the previous picture as well). You can see pictures of her family and her home by clicking here.