2013 CEEDS Post-earthquake Region Volunteer Teaching Programme Report (July 01 – August 04, 2013)


Schedule and routes:

July 01 – July 16: (Teaching and visiting in Wenchuan, Beichuan and Shifang in Sichuan Province)

July 17 – July 22: (Free time for travelling)

July 23 – August 04: (Teaching and visiting in Yushu in Qinghai Province)

Each summer, CEEDS organises volunteer teaching programme to send Cambridge students to schools in post-earthquake regions of Western China to interact with the local students and teach English and other subjects. This is a unique opportunity for Cambridge students to interact with students of a foreign culture, and to gain different perspectives of life. Teaching is rewarding, giving volunteers the chance to make a difference in their students’ future lives. Following are the diaries and some experiences shared by the volunteers who joined the 2013 CEEDS Post-earthquake Region Volunteer Teaching Programme.

Myffy (University of Cambridge, 3rdyear undergraduate in Natural Science)

Teaching in China was such a challenge as most students couldn’t understand what we were saying unless we spoke really slowly using very simple words. This meant that we had to try and use other methods of communication e.g. drawings, acting, demonstrations which was a real challenge.

In the first week, we did an introductory lesson to a number of classes. In the second week as their exams had finished, we were given about 40 children which we split into two classes. Our aim of the week was to improve their conversational English by providing more fun and interactive classes. We felt this was important as whilst observing the classes delivered by their teachers, they mainly focused on grammar, reading and writing and not much on spoken English. Over the week, we did debates, plays and other activities to try and focus on this.

Teaching was really rewarding as many of the students were really keen and it was interesting to see what methods engaged the students and the topics that they found the most interesting. They were also really friendly and welcoming, so many students wanted to sit and talk to us and get us involved in all their activities. It was such an enjoyable experience and very different from school life in England.

Cathy (University of Cambridge, 3rdyear undergraduate in English)

The students and teachers and other staff alike were equally welcoming: with fresh tea on tap, and access to the teachers’ chef who expertly prepared spicy Sichuan specialities for us at each meal, catering also to our special requests.

We hope that the students learned a lot from us in the two weeks that we were with them. We certainly learned a thing or two about resilience and courage from them!

Yijian (University of Cambridge, MPhil programme in Finance)

I still remember the long evenings and nights our group was sitting together discussing every aspect and trying to figure out how to communicate with the students best. Sometimes it was tough. Sometimes we had to spend lots of time to produce our content on the fly. However, looking back it was absolutely rewarding and actually taught me a lot.

We all had a lot of fun and we tried hard to show a more different style of learning: Less direct and more interactive. We tried to make them feel just like ordinary British students having school in the morning and activities in the afternoon. We also played a lot with the kids and we all enjoyed every moment. You can see how students who where first a little bit shy completely opened up and how their creativity showed up. They had brilliant ideas when they wrote their own screenplays and nothing reminded one of the quiet, studious kids you were expecting to see.

Sarah (University of Cambridge, 2ndyear undergraduate in Medicine)

It wasn’t just the school teachers and children who were incredibly friendly, but also all the shop keepers, taxi drivers, police who all wanted to meet us and of course take photos. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time there, eating the most amazing noodles and drinking herbal tea in the incredibly grand and somewhat bizarrely decorated tea room which also served us Tibetan delicacies like yak butter tea to try.

During our spare time we had some amazing trips out, visiting Princess Wenchuan’s temple carved into the mountain, seeing the Jiana Mani stone pile and staying in a traditional Tibetan tent eating yak. It was incredibly interestingly to learn about Buddhism and Tibetan history. Yushu is surrounded by stunning scenery, seeing the hundreds of colourful Buddhist prayer flags streaming over the mountains is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Overall the experience enabled me to experience a part of China which is hardly ever visited by tourists, and our entire group thoroughly enjoyed it.