A special guest post by Julie Chang ’14.
I have visited China many times in my life, but never have I had an experience as unique and, I think, authentically Chinese as this. From waking up to the crow of a rooster, to eating cherries straight from a tree, to unexpected fireworks throughout the day, this trip was filled with new experiences. For three weeks this summer, I volunteered at Dalian Children’s Village in Liaoning Province. This was arranged through Harvard China Care, which sends students every summer and winter break to orphanages in China. However, this place is not exactly an orphanage, as the children in Dalian Children’s Village do have parents. However, through various paths, the parents have been placed in prison. As the children here are not technically orphans, the Chinese government will not provide for them, and without anyone’s help, many of these children would have ended up on the streets.
The director of this Children’s Village and the volunteers on staff are among the most caring and generous people I have met. The director, Professor Gang Yi Wang, is a lawyer and also teaches at a local law school. He earns a decent amount for a living, but almost all his income is channeled to the children. While the lives of these children were surely filled with hardships in the past, they are now able to lead happy and healthy lives. At times, I even looked on with envy as they ran freely around the yard, without the petty preoccupations with the coolest toys or newest shoes more materialistically privileged kids tend to fret over. I have worked with many groups of children and teenagers before, but I can truthfully say this bunch was the most positive and generous. In such a short time, they welcomed me into their home and their hearts, and while some of the younger ones may eventually forget me, I know the memories I formed with them will stay with me forever.