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The Other School; the Other Village

November, 2012
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Usually, it’s quite disconcerting to see a small boy wiping tears from his grime-coated cheeks. However, in the case of Beijing BISS International School Grade 11 class, the image left them with bittersweet déjà vu as they left the small village school in Hebei Province.

The Grade 11 students had encountered the startling scene once before, when they had first set foot on day one of their humbling adventure in the Gufupu Village on September 17.

The trip was a major CAS project for the BISS Grade 11 students. They were supposed to take part in teaching roles as well as helping out with community service in the form of manual labor and preparing and building the village school.

On the first occurrence, when the trip leader and Free the Children representative, Borja, questioned the boy about his tearful reaction to them, the boy responded that he was terrified of seeing such strange people.

Though the Grade 11 students tried not to take offense at the boy’s adverse reaction to their presence, it was a startling wake-up call for them about just how fortunate international school students are to have the opportunity to be exposed to vibrant diversity on a daily basis.

In the hope of both exposing the young Gufupu children to the outside world and teaching them new skills and improving school life, BISS students set about performing various tasks around the small school. In groups of four, they spent about three hours each day teaching the children anything from simple English to soccer techniques. In addition, a number of 11th graders dedicated this time to painting a mural to help brighten the landscape. Each day’s earlier tasks were then followed by manual labor, which involved shoveling dirt into a trench to help finish the creation of a running water pipe to the school, as well as moving coal into a storehouse.

Despite the fact that manual labor was strenuous and the teaching stressful, the Grade 11 students discovered that the fruits of their labor were well worth the effort. The children, even the kindergarteners, opened up to the diverse group that they spent their days with and by the end of the trip could be seen grasping an eleventh grader’s hand or playfully stealing their mobile phones. The children went home each day with new knowledge and stories of new experience.

Thus, it was surprising to the BISS group that when they were saying their goodbyes, one of the village children cried after all of the experiences that they had shared together. After questioning the boy once more, the very helpful Borja clarified the situation by explaining that the tears, as it turned out, had changed from tears of terror, to tears of sadness at their departure.

Though the Grade 11 students were sorry to depart, they were happy to know that they were leaving behind not only artwork, and donated items from the entire school, but also lasting memories of a few days of joy.


By Sofia Fang,

Grade 11, Beijing BISS International School

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