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Students Reach Out to Make a Difference

January, 2011
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Coal for Kids, Habitat for Humanity, The Giving Tree, Million Tree Project, and Riding for the Disabled… these are just of few of the projects that international school students are supporting.

International schools in Shanghai make community outreach projects for their students a priority in their curriculum. This is to be applauded as nurturing and developing an individual’s awareness that everyone can and should make an effort to help others is the cornerstone of a civilized and caring society.

In the midst of season’s greetings, we are pleased to share a few stories on international students’ efforts to help others to lead a better life and make our world a better place.


The Bao Bei Project

During the month of November, seniors Judy Lee and Jin Lee launched a project called Bao Bei Festival at the Yew Chung International School of Shanghai Gubei campus. The aim of their project was to raise money for babies with heart disease.

"They are really young and really sick; they do need our help," said Judy. “We are raising money for their heart surgeries.”

According to the girls, they have been involved in different service projects throughout the year and each month has a different focus. For example, April is Earth Month and they raised money for planting trees. Earlier this year, they had a Pakistan Flag Month during which they raised money for people who suffered after the earthquake in Pakistan. However, Bao Bei Festival was really their own initiative.

“We have 8 to 10 people organizing this. Some are responsible for doing the posters; some doing bake sales and some selling tickets,” said Jin. They also talked about the Bao Bei project at the school assembly in the morning and organized "Dress Casual Day" on the Friday, so people can donate and in return they don’t need to wear school uniform. “It costs 25000 - 30000 RMB for one surgery and we hope to raise that much for a child.”

The big finale came on the Friday night of December 3rd when they organized a music concert at YCIS Gubei Campus with live band performances by YCIS students and teachers. Also, they sold chips, drinks, cakes and hot chocolate to the audience.

"If it is only donations, people are not so willing to come. So, live bands and food and games may attract more attention from the students,” said Judy.

Both girls said it was a great learning experience for them.

“This is our first time to actively participate and organize a charity. Before this I did not care so much about charity events. Through this event, I feel more responsible for helping the orphans,” said Judy. “We also learned how to organize things, for example how to use our music skills,” added Jin.

Their advice is: do as much as you can and you will have fun too. And you will be able to learn from it.


Teaching at the Gong You School

To Sabhya Sachdeva, teaching is a tough job and also a rewarding experience. The 11th grader and his schoolmates at Shanghai Community International School Pudong Upper School recently started teaching during lunch time at a local migrant school – Gong You School, which is about 10 minutes drive from their campus.

Sabhya and the other boy David Bjore teach 4th and 5th grade English, while their schoolmates teach Sports, Art, and Music.

In the English class, they started teaching them basic words about food, and slowly it changed to restaurants and how to order food from the menu, for instance. Then topics jumped to different animals.

“Our goal was to teach them English about food, but it totally changed during the course of the class. That was interesting,” said Sabhya. There were about 40 students in his English class. 4th or 5th Graders at Gong You School only have the English skills of 2nd grader’s English at SCIS or other international schools, while some cannot speak English at all. So he tried to split the teaching into two levels so that even if the student doesn’t know a single word they can still pick up something. Keeping the class quiet was another challenge because everybody was yelling. Meanwhile he tried to give those shy students a chance to answer questions.

“Teaching is a tough job. 40 minutes in the classroom is really tiring, and I cannot imagine teaching in the classroom for a whole day,” said Sabhya. At the same time, he felt a sense of responsibility. “When we entered the classroom, the children were cheering like we were rock stars. We had to raise our hands and the whole class would be quiet. That was really cool. They looked up to you perhaps because you are a foreigner or whatever. If you have good qualities, you are like role models to them.”

When he was teaching in the classroom for the second week, he already thought of new ideas to help the students. “Perhaps we can donate some clothes for the children. The children’s clothes are quite dirty and I remember they were wearing the same clothes as last week.” His schoolmates immediately supported this idea.

“What is unique about their teaching at Gong You School is the programs are totally run by the students,” said Ty Smeins, Upper School Vice Principle at SCIS Pudong. “The teaching will continue for at least one year and a half until these students complete their IB program.”

According to Smeins, there are quite a few service projects going on at SCIS: for example, SCIS Students working at the Shanghai Healing Home. In partnership with Roots & Shoots Shanghai, SCIS Pudong are running 3 programs - Organic Gardens, Million Tree Project, and YES Program (SCIS HS students are trained to teach the lower school kids environmental education). There is also Riding for the Disabled - SCIS students work with disabled kids and riding horses. In partnership with the Shanghai Qi Se Hua Autistic Center - SCIS students write lessons and volunteer at the center on Saturdays. SCIS students also joined Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Nepal for a week.

“We want our kids to work hands-on with the benefactors,” said Smeins. “We want our service work to be something that leaves a lifelong impression and affects the students’ hearts and souls. As we heard from the students, by doing service, everyone is being positively affected.”


Follow the Dance Steps

The Gumboot dancers visited Shanghai Singapore International School recently and they had performed to help raise funds for the establishment of schools in Cape Town, South Africa. The performance was entertaining but it was also an act of hope and determination that touched the SSIS students.

“Two of the dancers were our age. Their dancing was great and they were traveling around the world for fundraising to solve their problems. We thought we should help them,” said 11th grader Max Lai. “Since we cannot dance as well as them, we thought of other ways to help.”

At SSIS, there is at least one fundraising event every year. This year they decided to help the Gumboot dancer project. The whole 11th Grade were involved in the project.

After the dancers left, the students did some research online about the dancers and their charity project. Students found that they need money for students in the South African school to go abroad to study because they don’t have enough money to even buy necessities for school like books or stationery.

They did a really big bake sale for eight days during lunchtime at school, from which they raised 4690 RMB.

Besides raising money, they have also had donations.

“We used the ideas of UNICEF’s "School in a Box", and asked people to donate books and pencils and other school materials they don’t use anymore,” said 11th grader Hansika Jethnani.

“By doing this it opened our horizons and let us feel how privileged we are,” said Hansika. “Coming up with a plan and following it through was really impressive. We gained a lot of experience from this project, and we will do more such events in the future.”

Her advice for other students is: get out there and help the world. Make a difference, even if it is a small one.


Concert for Hope

Hearing about the story of Lao Wang Orphanage, Julianna Ko, a 12th Grader at the Shanghai American School was deeply touched. “My mother told me about the orphanage called Lao Wang Orphanage, where there are about 200 children either with disabilities or heart disease. And she told me there is an organization called Mifan Mama that is dedicated to raising funds for this orphanage. I thought it would good to do something for this orphanage,” said Julianna.

She immediately found her good friend Bonnie Ihn, and they worked on their plans. A charity concert they both attended during the summer inspired them.

“We thought a charity concert would be a great idea, and we are also in the music organization called Tri-M Music Honor Society. I thought that would be a good project for them as well. So we decided to do a charity concert to benefit the Lao Wang Orphanage.”

They decided to organize the Music for Hope Concert along with Mifan Mama. Luckily, Shanghai United Family Hospital provided funding too.

Organizing a music concert is never easy as it sounds. What’s more, this was their first charity project and it was really big. The first challenge for them was to assemble the performers inside and outside school. The h sent hundreds of e-mails and called people time and again to make sure they could play at the concert. Organizing all the music for the concert was also very overwhelming as there were performers from other schools. Also, the girls had to travel around the city to talk to different organizations and businesses for sponsorship. They even used Parent-Teacher conferences to do more advertising for the event.

“This was all a fresh experience for us. It was great experience as we got to know more about the Shanghai community as we reached out to many different organizations and people," said Julianna.

The final concert was held on November 6th at the Shanghai American School Puxi Campus. Lasting more than two hours, the concert featured a variety of student and faculty performances, including the APAC choir, symphony orchestra, jazz band Staff Infection, and the popular student band Vivid Exposure. It also featured music groups from outside of school, such as Snowgold, a band from the Shanghai German School; Rough Diamonds, a student band from the JZ school, and the Shanghai International String Quartet. Prior to the concert, there was also a silent auction on materials donated by local business and individuals. After the concert, there was a dinner banquet.

It was very successful with 200-300 people turning out for the concert. A total of 78,000 RMB was raised from the concert. The money raised from the concert is to be used for heart surgeries for one orphan at Lao Wang Orphanage.

"This is more than we expected to raise," said Bonnie. "It is really overwhelming and in the end we are very proud of ourselves. The whole concert was very enjoyable, and we enjoy accomplishing something for someone else.”

Both girls were so happy that their efforts over three months paid off. Julianna recalled a touching moment at the concert. Some orphans from the Lao Wang Orphanage were invited to the concert, and one little orphan girl gave me a glass of hot water to express her gratitude.

“I was so moved,” said Julianna. “We can say that we saved a child’s life and that is really a big difference we made.”

Currently in Grade 12, both girls are busy preparing for college applications. “Maybe next semester, we can find time to really visit the Lao Wang Orphanage and spend some time with the children.”


Words from Heart to Heart

“Children Helping Children is a vital means for the giving or supporting student to realize that their individual or combined efforts can help save and change the lives of other children less fortunate than themselves,” said Christine Cullen, Founder & Executive Director of Heart to Heart, a Volunteer Community Outreach Foundation. Cullen is often seen at her Heart to Heart booth at many school events in Shanghai, where she raises funds through interesting games as well as lovely Heart Bears and H2H Jewelry. Many students volunteer on a regular basis at Heart to Heart Hospital playroom sessions or help organize and participate in fund-raising activities.

“Hopefully learning this vital life-lesson at a young age will ensure that the children mature to be caring and concerned adults who proactively work in their communities to help the disadvantaged in our midst.”

Cullen believes community outreach opportunities abound in Shanghai and greater China as they do throughout the world. Students can create their own outreach projects that do not have to be large-scale or costly, but just something that they genuinely want to do to help another or others who are in need. This does not have to involve money. It can be in kind by providing a service; for example, play-activities, educational outreach or manual labor.

Christine Cullen founded Heart to Heart herself. It began as a small group of friends who assisted her with setting up a play-session for children undergoing heart surgery at a local hospital. Now it has grown to have play-activity sessions 7 days per week, 365 days a year at 3 Shanghai hospitals. To date Heart to Herat has sponsored 384 children’s heart surgeries and 39 provincial school libraries.

“I started the play-sessions when I was told that children lay in their hospital beds and had nothing to do. I made the time to organize and attend these play-sessions because it was something that I could do to help them,” she said.

“I work 7 days a week on Heart to Heart! Sometimes, I am absolutely physically and mentally exhausted (I am 60 years of age and some days really feel OLD!) as the work (volunteer) in running Heart to Heart is increasing as we expand our outreach work …but when I think of all of the children that my work has helped to save and of all the very grateful parents, many of whom hug and kiss me with thanks…it is worth all of the long hours.”

Any involvement in community outreach work has a very positive outcome on a person’s life, Cullen believes. Her advice for students is:

* Do not wait for someone to ask you for your help… look around you….create your own outreach projects! It is not always about money! It is about your time and your caring!

* Do to others as you would want them to do to you! 

* Once you have made the first step to helping others it will take you on a road that will bring you rewards that you could never dream of…rewards when you know that you have made a positive difference to a person’s life.


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