Group icebreakers are always a little awkward. Standing in a circle just beyond airport security, we all introduced ourselves before taking a group photo to signify the start of our service trip. Traveling around the world together provided ample time and shared experiences to bond quickly. Over the next two weeks, we would be teaching together at the Dandelion Middle School. Some would volunteer in the English Summer Camp, while others would volunteer in the Music Summer Camp. Through the efforts of our Lexington High School Musical Outreach Collaboration volunteers, and in collaboration with the Wings of Music organization in China and the New Zealand National Youth Brass Band, we would end the music camp with a charity concert fundraiser in Beijing for Dandelion and its students. We followed our volunteering experience with days spent touring Beijing.
With 16 volunteers in total, this was our largest group yet. Some of the volunteers had come with HSF before in the summer of 2008 and wanted to go back again. However, the majority were new to the experience. It was my personal hope to expose these new students to the harsh realities our scholarship recipients live in, such that it might positively influence their outlook on life. When reflecting on his time at Dandelion, Eric Chew wrote, "I still miss waking up to the sound of dozens of violins, playing an amalgam of Bach, Mozart, and Taylor Swift. In my opinion, the camp was a wonderful opportunity for both the Dandelion students and me to get an in depth glimpse into each of our cultures. In the process of interacting with the students and making my day through the school grounds and the surrounding village, I had an eye opening view of the conditions that these children face every day. Just seeing their surprise towards our daily splurge of bao zi, bottled drinks, and snacks was an immensely powerful blow at my privileged lifestyle."
Jeffrey, the youngest in our group at only 13, said, "The experience I had in China was really life changing; it opened my eyes to see what the lives of other children in China were like...You don’t get a sense of their lives and how bad they have it, until you’ve slept in a hard bed, tasted the foul stench of the bathrooms, gotten countless mosquitoes bites as you squat uncomfortably just to try to [go to the bathroom]...And it had always thrown me off how nice the students were. How good-hearted they were. How they put a huge smile on their optimistic faces. And I respected them for that. They didn’t slump and mope all day, they took initiative to learn and try to help and give, even when they had nothing. Well...they didn’t have nothing, they had hope."
From written reflections and individual responses I have received from our volunteers, I am pleased to say the trip was successful. We made a tremendous impact and came back to the US with many new insights and fond memories. Katie synthesized our efforts well in her reflection, "At the end of the summer camp the kids wrote us thank you letters. While I was reading the letters I couldn’t help but smile. All of the kids want me to come back next year and I am most definitely going to try and do so. When I was reading, two of the kids mentioned how because of me they learned the importance of serving others. I was honored and touched." We were able to share more than just English and music lessons, but life values and perspectives.
Our service-learning trips continue to be incredible experiences for all, and we hope to continue to hold them in the future!
You can read more trip reflections here.
Pictures of our trip are now uploaded online!
Sneha Rao (Lexington High School '15)
Yanghui Chen (Wheeler School '14)
Scout Jones (Wheeler School '14)
Katie Bergmeier-Esterberg (Andover High School '13)
Eric Chew (Lexington High School '13)
Brendan Wang (Dartmouth College '15)
Eric Chiang (Lexington High School '13)
Tom Jeon (Lexington High School '13)
Saaya Maeda (Lexington High School '13)
Brendan Cue (Lexington High School '13)
Jerry Chen (Lexington High School '13)
Jeffrey Zhou (Boston Latin '17)
Cory Levinson (University of South Carolina '14)
Bora Kim (University of South Carolina '14)
Dawei Zhao (Wake Forest University '15)
Ted Mooncai (University of Pennsylvania '12)
Siblings David and Jennifer Liu lead another group of dedicated students to the Dandelion School to teach.
David Liu (Harvard University '15)
Jennifer Liu (Phillips Exeter Academy '12)
Stephen Hall (Yale University '15)
Sarah Xiao (Phillips Exeter Academy '12)
Veronica Yu (Phillips Exeter Academy '11)
Jennifer Liu @ Dandelion - Summer 2009
From being a member of our trip in 2008, Jennifer Liu has moved on to organize and lead her own service learning trip to Dandelion. If you are interested in doing something similar, please contact us.
Click Here to learn more about Jennifer's trip.
Teaching at The Dandelion School - Summer 2008