I have been in China for more than a week now, yet I haven’t felt the need to wear trousers or a jumper, a nice change of pace from my Irish upbringing.
As a general volunteer, my jobs are placed around various areas across the foster home. Each timetable is different for each volunteer here.
My morning consists of three one-on-one sessions with the children, followed by a short break and a more in-depth one-on-one session with my assigned orphan.
In these sessions we focus on basic activities such as walking and playing, so the language barrier isn’t too severe.
After a break for lunch, the new volunteers are afforded Chinese lessons to assist us with basic phrases which are of help with the children and in local markets. The working day then concludes with a two hour session of games and activities with the children.
There is a certain pressure when it comes to the one-on-one classes. A ‘goal sheet’ sheet is provided which highlights what you should be working on while also displaying how far behind these children are to the average child.
It is greatly upsetting to know that the majority of these children were abandoned and that they cried outside in the cold and rain at one time in their life.
Many of the children are in need of major surgeries which would require a lot of money. As a result, many families choose to abandon the child, a decision which is almost unfathomable to us back home.
From the playroom activities to the one-on-one sessions, you really get to see what each child is like, how they act with others and what they do and don’t respond to.
Some of the children enjoyed playing with the foster home’s dog, while others were afraid of him. Each child is unique, and must be treated accordingly.
The children are so much fun to play with. My fondest memory so far has been when the children were trying to soak me with water guns and with small buckets. It was incredible hearing them laugh and seeing how much fun they were having. I guess laughter truly is a universal medicine.
It has been incredible getting to know the other volunteers too. I am one of four Irish students who have arrived here at the foster home. We have different roles, as two of them are currently studying nursing. They have been given jobs within the ICU and giving presentations on topics such as wound care for the nannies here to learn from.
The other Irish guy and I have roles in photography, working with the children and more general work around the foster home including some IT and admin work.
Having no experience with the Chinese language, it has been fun to learn basic phrases which help in everyday life such as buying goods at the local market.
There are four tones which affect the meaning of the word in the Mandarin language, so grumbling is not a widely tolerated as it is in Ireland!