As colors changed and leaves began to fall on the Western Academy of Beijing campus this autumn, a group of High School students saw an opportunity to learn and have fun with children from a local migrant school.
On a Saturday afternoon last week, we stopped by to see the group of students happily creating art projects with the autumn leaves, as part of a student-led volunteer project created to make a difference in our local community. The club's leader, Jane, is a student in Grade 12. She talked to us about their volunteer work, inspiration, and goals for the future.
Q: How long has your club been around at WAB, and what are big-picture goals of the group?
Jane: This club has existed since I came to High School 4 years ago. The preschool's principal said WAB's been visiting their school for eight years already. The big-picture goals of the group are just to spend time with the migrant school kids, use our skills to teach English, and engage them in creative activities they normally would not have access to, like baking and arts projects. We also fundraise for necessary school supplies, like books, bookshelves, air purifiers, crayons, pencils.
Q: Tell us about the time you spent with the students on campus last Saturday?
Jane: We were doing leaf collages. Since it's autumn, we had them find leaves on and choose their favorites. Then we gave them paper, scissors, glue, and markers to create an artwork including leafs. Some kids painted the back of the leaves and used them as stamps; others cut the leaves to make shapes. Some glued the leaves to the paper and drew around them. It was really fun for us, because we were cutting and coloring with the kids, and I actually never thought of using leaves as stamps. The artwork turned out nice, and the kids all seemed to be engaged and happy to have created their pieces.
Q: Why do you think this kind of work is important for the community?
Jane: I joined the group because I enjoy teaching children and playing with them. I think this kind of activity is important for us because it helps us develop our social skills, empathy, appreciate our resources, and step out of the bubble we may live in, which we often forget to do. For the children, we just hope we can make a positive impact in their lives and they can enjoy our visits with them. Of course, we hope they can learn things, as well, and our fundraising can help their school become a better environment for learning!
Q: How has WAB's culture supported your club's work?
Jane: WAB's culture has allowed us to bring the kids to school every weekend. Without the support of our supervisor, our security team, and transportation department, we would not have been able to do this. Further, WAB's focus on personal development and extracurricular growth is a reason why this club can be successful and people are continuously involved in it every week.
Q: Any plans for the coming months or years for your club?
Jane: We are actually at a crossroads of sorts. The school we have had a longstanding relationship with has some issues with the government and has been shut down multiple times. Currently, it is in the process of reopening. Therefore, for the past month, we've just brought the children to WAB to do activities. I'm not sure how long it will take for the preschool to reopen, if it ever does. We hope to continue to bring the kids to WAB as long as they are able and want to come. We may look for a new school if their school permanently shuts down, but that is still to be further discussed. We will do arts & crafts, play, and teach English with children. For the coming years, I hope this club continues to be as active as it has been in the past. I hope we can continue to be something positive in the children's lives, and this club can be something meaningful to all of us.