I can’t believe that I am writing this on penultimate day in Nanjing. From the get-go this has been one of the most stimulating and formative experiences I have ever had and I leave with no doubt that this is just the beginning of what will hopefully come to be many more partnerships between myself and the driven and dedicated team here at MBL
I arrived in China three weeks ago and spent the first week in Shanghai teaching at Wellington College International. This was my first time in the bubbling metropolis and it didn’t fail to impress! Waiting to watch the sun set over the city at 474m high from the infamous ‘bottle top’, shopping in various silk markets and eating a multitude of street foods were just some of my favorite moments.After Shanghai, I took the bullet train to Nanjing where I was to spend 2 weeks volunteering with MBL. This superfast train travels faster than 300 km/h; I wish trains in the UK would travel this quickly!
在南京，我参与了很多MBL的活动。毫无疑问，让我感受最深的是参与了“BOOKS FOR KIDS”项目中的一些活动。这也是我这次来华体验的最大亮点。周二，我和Frank Pan以及MBL中国团队访问了南京的一所小学，这所小学为连云港的贫困学校募捐书籍。周末去贫困的乡村，把书给哪里的孩子们。这对我来说是非常有意义的，让我看到了中国学校的差异，以及班级规模和英国的极大差异，但是中国的学生表现非常出色！
During my time with MBL I have been involved in a variety of different activities. Without a doubt, my personal highlight of this trip was working with MBL’s ‘Books for Kids’ project. On Tuesday last, along with Frank and his MBL team, I visited a primary school here in Nanjing who have been collecting donations for the project which we were to take at the weekend to Lianyungang. It was fascinating for me to see the differences between primary schools here in China and back in the UK; the class sizes were so big and the children so well behaved!
It wasn’t until the following Sunday though, that I truly realized the true necessity of the B4K project. At 6:30am I, along with 29MBL volunteers, started to load the bus with heating supplies, stereos, desks，bookcase，atlases and over 2500 books that were going to travel the 300km with us to Lianyungang.
Upon arrival, I was struck by how different this little rural school was from the primary school I had visited earlier in the week; there was no athletics track nor calligraphy room, no gardens nor ponds. The playground consisted of two broken basketball nets, the classrooms housed wooden desks and chairs which for the most part were broken, the two dormitories each 45 meters squared，each housing 40 children, one for girls and one for boys. Liners made of bamboo were used in lieu of mattresses and there were often three children sleeping on a single bunk. The importance of what we could achieve if we were to give these children books became very apparent to me.
However, It’s no use having books but no where to put them! So, we built a library; we built bookshelves, tables and chairs so as to make our new library as best a learning environment as possible. As someone who has never even built IKEA flatpack furniture this was quite a challenge! By the end of Sunday evening we had build libraries in both the schools we were visiting. We filled them full of the books from MBL donations and donned the walls with posters. It was then time to get some rest before meeting the children who would use our library the following day
On Monday we returned to the school for their flag raising ceremony in which the principal thanked MBL for all their time and effort and in which Frank encouraged the children to use their new books to further their own education. This flag raising ceremony was a new experience for me; watching over 600 children marching in step and salting perfectly in time was quite a sight! I was then asked to teach an English lesson to 60 8 year-olds. They picked up the new material very quickly and the whole lesson was incredibly rewarding. The two days in Lianyungang emphasized to me the huge disparity in educational opportunities in China and the tremendous amount of work that still needs to go into overcoming this gap.
我花了两天的时间在宁馨残疾人中心帮助工作。我给他们上英语课，唱儿歌，打节奏，做活动。我还花了一天的时间，与一个来自澳大利亚的家庭一起参观了孤儿院，这是他们养女之前的家，来自南京孤儿院。这是他们养女3岁被领养之后，第一次回到中国。我在孤儿院里，看见了中国面临的社会问题，体会到MBL BOOK FOR KIDS项目中的生养文化、寻根团聚的重要性和迫切性！
The rest of the time I have spent in Nanjing has either been working in the MBL offices where I have helped to make English podcasts, teaching a new word or phrase every day, or touring the beautiful sights this city has to see.
I have spent two days at Ningxin disability home where I taught the children English nursery rhythms and sat in on their lessons. I also spend a day at a children’s orphanage with an Australian family whose adopted daughter comes from Nanjing. It was the first time she had returned to China since being adopted at the age of 3 and it was the first time she met the family who fostered her until her adoption. My day in the orphanage opened up my eyes to some of the social problems facing china as well as highlighting the importance of MBL’s aim to reunite birth and adoptive cultures.
Throughout my time in Nanjing, I have been made to feel so welcome. I would like to thank Tinting and her family for hosting me throughout my stay, for the most amazing array of breakfasts I have ever seen and for bearing with me when I didn’t understand what was going on!Thank you to the MBL volunteers who made our trip to Lianyungang such a success, thank you to Jenny for being such a wonderful tour guide, thank you to everybody who works in the MBL office for being so kind, generous and feeding me with so much fruit! I have loved my time with you.
Thank you to Julie and Xiao Li for helping me to organize this entire trip, without you both this would not have been possible, and finally, thank you Frank. For showing me the real China, for explaining many intricacies of Chinese cultures, for our stimulating evening conversations on Chinese society, for taking me to eat in the most amazing local places and for showing me how much you believe in the work MBL does, thank you.
MBL’s unwavering determination to improve the educational opportunities for poor Chinese children as well as your desire to teach more children English is inspiring. I leave Nanjing in the hope that I too, through working with MBL, will be able to make a difference to the lives of these children. MBL’s work is truly amazing, thank you for letting me be a part of it.