From the Field – Xiuning Service and Cultural Exchange Program 2011

Participants in the 2011 Xiuning Service and Cultural Exchange Program share their experiences.

“This was a fabulous trip. I had never been to China before, and it was a wonderful way to do it, being somewhere away from the main tourist areas, and having something absorbing to do besides sightseeing.  I feel I got a much greater understanding of China through the Xiuning experience and talking to the other participants about theirs than I would have had I just been on my own.“

These reflections from Ruth Karras, a participant in the Yale Alumni Service Corps trip to Xiuning County, Anhui province, China, reflect the feelings of many of the 180 volunteers who spent a week working and teaching in Xiuning. The trip was the culmination of a year of planning and partnership between Yale-China, the Yale Alumni Service Corps, and the Association of Yale Alumni.

Volunteers took part in service and exchange activities in the areas of education, the arts, athletics, business, medicine, and construction over the five-day teaching and work period. Melissa Belman, a participant in the business group, said, “I had the good fortune to work with an extraordinarily talented team; indeed, I am confident that SOM’s Alderfer and Berg might very well have used our team as a model of “highly functional group behavior” in their famous GRO course.…It was also great fun for me to transform my SOM TA strategy curriculum into a blackboard lesson on product differentiation.   When I saw that our students “got it” immediately, I felt so honored to be surrounded by such exceptional teens.”

All projects were planned and executed by volunteers and involved local students and medical professionals at four sites – Xiuning Middle School, Haiyang #2 Middle School, Haiyang Primary School, and Xiuning County People’s Hospital. The trip culminated in a final performance featuring the accomplishments of students during the week of project work and presentation of gifts to schools and local officials.

In addition to the 180 volunteers and five Yale-China staff members, ten current or former Yale-China Teaching Fellows joined the group as project facilitators for the week, and over sixty alumni of Xiuning Middle School returned to serve as translators and classroom assistants. Many of these returning alumni were former students of the Yale-China Teaching Fellows at Xiuning Middle School, who drew praise from YASC members. Kathryn Katz notes, “The high school volunteers were wonderful and I truly wonder how we would have done in the classrooms without their assistance--both with the translation of concepts but in educating us to the needs of the students.”

“This trip really turned out to be more than I expected, “ said Michael Rebell. “I very much agree that one of the lasting highlights was getting to know the student assistants…I've already commenced an e-mail exchange with [Xiuning Middle School alumni volunteer] Margaret and I hope to maintain contact with her in the future.”

The Yale-China Association thanks the administrations of all project sites and the Xiuning County government, especially County Head Tian Yurun, for their help and support in arranging and organizing this project. Yale-China will continue to remain involved with Xiuning County through its work at Xiuning Middle School and through continued development of the Xiuning Teaching Fellowship site through the James R. Lilley Memorial Fund.

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