Trip Reflections

Summer 2012


Brendan Wang (Dartmouth College '15)   - August 24 2012

My trip to the Dandelion Middle School in 2012 has offered me a very different perspective than my original trip in 2008 did. Since the original trip in 2008, I have become incredibly involved in the Hope Scholarship Fund, which has in turn brought me even closer with the school. The trip to Dandelion in 2012 had a very different feel from the one in 2008. Because I had already visited the school once, I knew what to expect in terms of school conditions and the teaching style that I had to employ while teaching English. That was a huge advantage, as I did not spend much time getting acclimated to the school – I simply dove right in.

 

All of that aside, the school has changed a lot. Well, the area surrounding the school has changed and is now bustling with activity. There are many more buildings, considerably more cars, and far more people. The school has also built more dormitories and has improved some of its facilities. Even so, it’s the same Dandelion that I remember from our trip back in 2008. My students from the first trip have already graduated, but the same spirit of persistence and perseverance still pervades the students’ drive to learn and succeed.

Along with the physical changes to the school and the area around it, I myself experienced a significant change. My trip to Dandelion in 2008 was as a participant; I merely went along with what the Hope Scholarship Fund had set out to do. However, being much older and much more mature exactly four years later, my experience and role changed drastically.

This time I was not returning only as a participant, but also as a director of the Hope Scholarship Fund and a leader. This new role included teaching English in a classroom just as before, but it added another layer of intricacy. I was in charge not only of operating my classroom, but also making sure that the other volunteers from the HSF were doing well, experience the “Dandelion Experience,” and acclimating well to the environment. The new responsibilities seemed somewhat alien at first, but I quickly got into the groove of things.

As with last time, I found the children to be incredibly hard working and inspiring. Only once before had I witnessed such a strong will to succeed, and that was the last time I was at the school. However, it was also important for me to realize that as much as I was helping my students at Dandelion learn English, they were also helping me learn more about myself and more about the world around me.

The experience has been an unforgettable one, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to return to the Dandelion School. As with last time, my returning to the States was difficult. It’s never fun to leave good friends behind, and in this case I was leaving over twenty newfound friends. If I take only one thing away from my experience with the Dandelion school and its students, it’s this: our community does not end with those around us. In order to make the world a better place, we must consider the world to be our community. After visiting the Dandelion school twice, I can no longer claim ignorance to the world’s troubles. That would just be incredibly irresponsible and selfish of me.



Tom Jeon (Lexington High School '13)   - August 2012

 

Dear My Dandelion Students,

 

Let me first start off by saying how incredibly life-changing this last two weeks have been for me teaching, learning, laughing, singing, dancing, eating hand picked grapes, taking embarrassing videos of ourselves, making heart-achingly beautiful memories with each other. I will never forget our never-ending and passionate arguments of No’s and Yes’s. I am writing this letter to you as I am heading back to the United States. The plane ride is awfully long and awfully silent and lonely and cold. Saaya is sleeping and I have no one to talk to. The window view just forbade the distance away from you guys, and my heart aches every second. I am constantly fascinated by our ability to connect despite the language barriers and cultural difference. What made it possible for us to form such bonds and brotherhoods and a sense of community? As part of the Dandelion School, we are familiar with the saying, “It takes a lot of love to live”, and I really think that entails the answer to my question—love. Without my love for you guys and the love you have for me, this camp, this formation of a second family would not have happened.

I apologize to those of you whom I did not get to know well. I blame my disability to communicate with you through the use of your language. I deeply regret that I did not know your language, because I really believe that every relationship with any of you would be an invaluable one. But to those I was fortunate enough to connect to, to have been acknowledged as your older brother, I really have much to say to you. You guys have inspired me, to not only playing the violin but also your studies. It made me realize that I must step it up.

 

I’ve told myself that over and over again whether for the musical play, the solo performance, or the teaching plans, I saw the way you were committed to yourselves, to not only your violin but also to your studies. As your volunteer teacher, I felt a constant pang of guilt and irresponsibility and inadequacy to be who I was supposed to be with you guys.

 

When we were saying goodbye when we got back from the concert, I’d admit that I cried. And I never cry. At most I just feel sad and lack energy. It was so touching to know how much you guys cared for me, despite all the mistakes I’ve made. However we felt that last day saying goodbye to each other will be inevitably weakened. The summer music camp is over; no longer do we have a concert to prepare for, we are all back to whatever lifestyle we lived before the camp. We will all be back to our normal lives, with busy schedules, new things on our minds, and constantly pushing back the sentiments of the camp at the Dandelion School. Let’s not be sad that it’s over, but be happy because it happened and wait patiently until our next time together.

 

Please do not forget me because I will not and cannot forget you.

 

Sincerely,

Tom Jeon



Eric Chiang (Lexington High School '13)   - August 2012

 

When I first stepped off the bus at Dandelion school that first day, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Looking around, I saw the huge amount of people, the piles of trash in the nearby village, and the thick paint that lined the walls of the Dandelion school. I mentally began to hunker down for what I expected to be two weeks of hard work and grind (hey, no pain no gain). Fortunately, my preparations were ultimately for naught. Despite the terrible smells of our room, the mold hanging two feet above my face at night, the unusable boy’s bathroom, the freezing showers, and the flood sewage waters that dominated the school for a solid night, I actually enjoyed myself a great deal throughout the volunteer experience. I now find that many of these “negative” aspects of the experience are actually what I had the most fun with (those showers were the bomb). The humbling experiences made victories just that much more rewarding. For example, while I was teaching the chorus group, I felt especially excited and happy just from making the kids smile and laugh. I knew that these kids came from some incredibly poor backgrounds, and their ability to work hard, persevere, and enjoy themselves despite their financial and social instability was an inspiring sight for me to see. These kids taught me that attitude is everything when it comes to your perception of life. The way they were able to hold their heads high and smile at me made me feel really thankful that I was able to possibly influence their lives in a positive way. I was able to teach them music and English, but more than anything, what I hoped to accomplish was to inspire and support them. Much like the Dandelion alumni that return to the school showed how things could get better with hard work and desire, I wanted to inspire and help these children to break the chain of bad education leading to poverty leading to bad education. I shared with them a lot of experiences that I had throughout both Western education systems as well as Western society. In the case of music, I believe that I was able to use my passion for my instrument to inspire the kids in their own musical studies. Many of the children approached me throughout the weeks, saying that they wanted to learn how to play the piece that I was playing for them, or that when they were older, they also wanted to learn the piano. Music instills the ideas of passion and dedication, which will ultimately benefit the lives of these children.  This is why I believe that the Wings of Music summer camp was great. Originally, I was a bit upset that we “had” to do a musical play, but in the end, we did what we could and delivered what I thought was a very decent performance. I believe that using music to unite the world and improve the lives of its inhabitants is a noble cause, and I am glad that I had this opportunity.

Right after we let Dandelion, we went on a great three day tour. After that, I headed off to Northeast China. The tour was very good in my opinion; we got to see some of the best attractions in Beijing for what seemed like an unbelievably small amount of money. I was amazed at the quality of the hotels, the performances, and the food that we enjoyed. With my experiences touring Beijing, as well as my experiences in Northeast China’s technology district, I was able to see the huge contrast in China’s rich and poor. This contrast really brought the trip together for me, and made both sides (rich and poor), seem more definite and extreme. I learned a ton from both sides of the trip, and would definitely do it again if I had the chance.

 


Eric Chew (Lexington High School '13)   - August 2012

The Summer Music Camp at the Dandelion School was an amazing experience. 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. At the same time, their traditional methods of learning music were also shocking. It was surprising to see the strict, invariant atmosphere that they had learned to play their instruments in. However, I feel like our presence at the camp really helped them learn more about music. Although they were a bit hesitant at first to trying different techniques of bowing and reading music, they opened up and had a lot of fun with them. Being exposed to playing Western pop music along with their Western classical music also helped them expand their musical repertoire. It was amazing to see their musical intellect grow dramatically over the span of the camp, as they learned to play different styles of music and implement new methods of counting beats and fingering notes in their playing.

Overall, I found the trip to be both fun and invaluable. Apart from learning more about myself and imparting some new musical knowledge onto the students, I was able to meet and bond with some amazing people during the trip. The touring portion of the trip after teaching at Dandelion was especially entertaining. From climbing the Great Wall to eating at excellent restaurants, it was all magnificently put together, and I highly recommend that it be done again.

 


Jeffrey Zhou (Boston Latin '17)    - August 2012

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. The truth is, I probably knew all along. I was conscious of it but I ignored it. The fact that other children, who aren’t as fortunate as me, are out there; most of them are struggling to get an education, their parents sacrificing everything for their future. I ignored it, because I thought it was not my problem, none of my business. I didn’t realize until I went to China that it WAS my problem. It was my responsibility to help those in need. My act of helping other children in need opened new doors for them, new windows of opportunity. It was also an opportunity for me. 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 take a crap. As one of my friends and fellow group member said, “Pictures alone cannot justify. You have to be there to really see it.” And in those two weeks, that’s what I did. 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, I got proven wrong. They didn’t have nothing, they had hope. And that’s when I knew that “right now” was irrelevant. Right now was insignificant. It was the future, that’s was they were working towards. And I wanted to help them to get there.

Not only did I make friends and bonded with many of the students, our group is the best of friends now. We were like a team, and I remember that first day at the airport: confusion, embarrassment. But we got along fine. And I’ve got to say, it feels like I’ve known them for a lot more than two weeks, that’s for sure.

So along the way I have gained new friends and experiences, so all in all, my experience was great. I’m hoping that I can go back next year to help and volunteer some more.

 

Summer 2009

Jennifer Liu (Phillips Exeter '12)    - September 8, 2009

I journeyed this summer to the Dandelion School for my second year and brought three other schoolmates expecting to share knowledge and experience with migrant students. But as it turns out, we all felt like we benefited from the experience more than the students did. Leading a group to the Dandelion School brought about many new experiences in addition to many old ones. Planning and organizing a small trip required a lot of time and patience. Now, I finally appreciate how much work goes into planning these types of volunteer events. The planning became even more complicated as swine flu precautions in China became stricter and I had to delay my arrival at the Dandelion School. Nevertheless, the hard work placed into it was all worth it. I was able to spend time with my friends from school and able to witness yet again the hardworking, appreciative, and lively Dandelion students. Even with so little, the Dandelion students could accomplish so much. Like the Dandelion flower, the school, in harsh conditions, still manages to find a place to flourish and grow into a beautiful but often disregarded flower.

Although I wasn’t able to lead my own class because of my late arrival in the summer program, I was still able to help students one-on-one with their English pronunciation. My seventh grade class was preparing for their Snow White production in which they were to perform at the closing ceremony of the camp. Each student worked hard on their lines and often came running up to me excitedly with bright smiles on their faces exclaiming when they memorized a line. They would then recite it to me and I finally felt the rewards of our hard work. I also could tell they truly loved to learn English and meet new people like me and other volunteers who had travelled the distance and put in the effort to help enrich these students’ educations. Something else I learned from this experience is the realization that one does not have to be wealthy to be happy. Even with hard living conditions, they can still look up to hope, smile, and be happy for everything they have. They appreciate everything they receive and thank the volunteers too much.

Meanwhile, my classmates who were leading their own classes admitted that going to Dandelion was the best thing they did the whole summer. Even my friend, who does not speak Chinese and thus had some trouble communicating with the students, was able to appreciate the kindness of her students who often helped her even if they didn’t always understand each other. My friends all exclaimed their happiness and adored the “cuteness” of the students. Coming out of this experience, we all see things in a different light and appreciate everything we receive so much more than before. I am glad I was able to share my experience with my classmates and I hope this will bring more participants in the future.

Our experiences show just how much one act of kindness can enable so many more.  From teaching these kids, I learned from them how to make the most use of everything and how to just let go and be happy. This is something I would take with me through life. It truly was a great experience and doing it again for my third year would be the first thing I want to do next summer.

 



Summer 2008


Cory Levinson (Wheeler School '10)   - August 17, 2008

My trip to China from July 10th 2008 to July 26th 2008 organized by the Hope Scholarship Fund was more beneficial to me and the people I affected than I ever imagined. When I first heard about the trip, I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to improve my Chinese. In a few weeks I will be a junior at the Wheeler School in Providence. My foreign language that I take is not Spanish or French, it is Chinese, and I saw this trip as a chance to improve my Chinese. As I look back on the trip, I realized it was so much more than that.

Before I left for China, I would constantly be asked two questions. The first, “So, Cory, are you excited to go to China?”

My answer? “Yeah, definitely, it should be a lot of fun.”

It was more than fun. Not only did I enjoy myself, but my eyes were opened to so many new things it’s impossible to list them all. It was a great experience, and I’ll do my best to describe it. The trip was organized by the Hope Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organization that raises money and awareness to give students in poverty a better education. The organization focuses on giving scholarships to children at two schools, the Dandelion School in Beijing, China and the Mwea Primary School in Mwea, Kenya, and also supports two other schools in Xi’an, China and in Kenya. The organization was founded by Ted Mooncai (Wheeler School ’08) when he was 16, now 18, and is attending UPenn in the fall. Along with Ted and his mom, there were ten other people in our group. Along with Mrs. Mooncai, the other chaperone was Mr. Phillip Hall, a teacher at the Wheeler school. Three rising juniors from Wheeler went on the trip-David Liu, Vathana Ngeth, and myself. Six other students went on the trip, Jennifer (David’s sister), Shelby Poon and Connie Ho, Matt Coughlin (Ted’s older cousin and a sophomore at Merrimack college), and Ben and Brendan Wang. With the exception of the chaperones and Ted and his cousin, the whole group is in high school. We all got to know each other in the short two weeks we were together. We ate and toured together for two straight weeks, but somehow we all managed to get along great. Going into the trip, I only knew six of the twelve people, and looking back I couldn’t have asked for a better group.

After I was asked if I was excited for my trip, the question that always followed was, “What are you going to do?”

Again my answer was short and sweet, “The first week we’ll tour around, then the second week we will teach English to children of migrant workers.”

The second Q&A is always what got people going. Not only did I get to tour the newest global superpower, but I got to fully experience and understand what the other (poor) aspect of life was like for the hundreds of millions people living in extreme poverty. The school we taught English at was the Dandelion School, which is a school in a very poor suburb of Beijing. The students would be enrolling in the school in the fall, and we taught at a summer camp to get them acclimated to the school. The schools goal is to create a better opportunity for children in education, and eventually in life by focusing on teaching them English. All the children come from extremely poor families, whose average income is around $200. Imagine that, $200 for one year. The kids get to learn English, for free, thanks to people and organizations like the Mooncai family and Hope Scholarship Fund. The children at the school have almost nothing outside of school, and going to this school isn’t a dream come true, they probably never dreamed that something like this could ever happen to them. Think of it this way: Harvard gets relocated to Disney World, annual tuition $0, and Bill Gates is paying for your education Harvard Education in Orlando-impossible right? That’s the best analogy I can think of how these kids felt. Writing about my experience and taking pictures of it still can’t make people fully understand what it was like to teach English to these kids and see how the students lived. The only way to understand is to see it in person, and I feel extremely lucky to have done that. We got to see how most of the students lived, and I was speechless. I’ll get into that later.

Now that you have an understanding about the trip and its real purpose (teach English to children of migrant workers), I can tell you about the trip! On top of having a blast, I witnessed what Asian culture was like, and specifically how it was different but in many ways similar to Western culture. I can’t remember every way that the Chinese culture was different from the West, but I can recall the food, the history, and most importantly the quality of life being extremely different from Western culture.

From a food standpoint, Chinese food is not only different from Western food, but also Western Chinese food as well. In my whole time in China, I had no cheese, and a scarce amount of milk, which was only available in the hotels we stayed at. Dairy products were almost unobtainable. American Chinese food is also different from authentic Chinese food. Much to my surprise, I did not see or have any soy sauce in China. I think that food may be cooked with it, but with little amounts. Fried rice in China is simply white rice fried with egg and on occasion pork and carrots. No soy sauce with pork, egg, onions and everything else that comes in the fried rice we know in America. A lot of my favorite American Chinese dishes, such as Crab Rangoon, Sesame Chicken and General Tsao’s Chicken don’t exist in China.

The history in China makes Western History, specifically American History seem like it took place yesterday. What would be extremely old American History? I would consider the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to be one of America’s oldest historical events. In China at that time, the population was well in the millions and the civilization thriving. While a hundred or so Englishmen were trying to withstand starvation, disease, and tensions with Native Americans, the Chinese were in their version of the Renaissance. They were busy building significant amounts of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and countless other historical landmarks that seem fairly recent in China. Chinese Dynasties date back thousands of years B.C, and each dynasty had various impacts on Chinese history and how we see China today. Whether and emperor moved a capital, made a lake to go along with their palace, introduced Buddhism to the country, built a section of the Great Wall, or had civilians build an underground tomb containing thousands of clay soldiers for protection in the afterlife for their emperor, each ruler and his (men almost always ruled) dynasty had a lasting impression on Chinese culture and civilization that can be witnessed today.

The most important difference in Chinese culture to Western Culture in my opinion is the quality of life. In China, in a suburb of Beijing, I saw the most poverty stricken family and community that I have ever seen, read or heard of in my entire life. In the Beijing suburb, we walked to the home of a Dandelion student. We ventured on a path off the main road, and we walked into a wide open farm field. As we walked through the field, we saw little shacks every couple of hundred feet. This was where the farmers lived and where the particular Dandelion student lived He lived on a large farm, with about ten or so other families scattered through about twenty acres of farm land. As we approached his “house,” I began to realize why Dandelion was so important to all of these kids. His little “house”, more like a shack, was made up of a combination of bricks, cement, and bamboo. There were two rooms; the first was the entrance room, about the size of a small bedroom. Half of the room was full with junk pushed to the back of the room. The other half was open, which is where the children slept. The floors were made of pure cement, like an unfinished basement. The kids would sleep on mats. In the other room, about the size of a small kitchen, there were too beds against the wall, a few pans, a fan, and a small 14 inch analog TV. A queen bed couldn’t fit in the room, which most likely explains why there were two twin beds. The ceiling in the entire house was about seven feet tall, and being 6’0 was a little uncomfortable. The family came from Western China, and was granted permission from the government to move outside of Beijing to make more money. They made virtually no money, and all their crops went directly to the government or other people buying them. They couldn’t keep any for themselves-after all; they were on the government’s land, not theirs so they better follow the laws or they’ll be gone faster than they came in. That’s a small sample of how the Chinese government works. If the family decides to keep some plants for themselves, or sell it for higher than the government quota (breaking the law), the government will likely force them back out west, and bring another family to take their place. China’s population is over 1.3 billion people, so the government has virtually an unlimited supply of workers. The child’s parents spoke no English, so the principal of Dandelion and Ted’s mom came to help translate the questions we asked the parents and their two children. After a few questions, the Dandelion student broke into tears for a number of reasons, mainly because he realized the situation he was in and how lucky he was to be going to Dandelion. I was totally speechless, I couldn’t think of anything to ask.

After learning all of this, I realized why the Dandelion school was really like a Harvard at Disney World for the student. His parents spoke no English, and they grew plants for a living, even though they can’t make a living off of it. Now the child got to go to Dandelion, where he slept in a bunk bed, had free food three times, not one times a day, and learnt English, for no cost at all. It doesn’t seem like much, but as the saying goes, “Seeing is Believing,” and boy is it true.

 

Brendan Wang (Andover High School '11)    - August 18, 2008

One of the most enjoyable things of the whole trip was the first week in Beijing, touring with all of those in our tour group. Why is this? I really don’t know, but we all formed a really strong bond within the first couple days when most of us were complete strangers. While the tours seemed a bit rushed, spending no more than an hour at some places, it was still an amazing experience. Just walking in Tiananmen Square talking to your buds on a trip to a foreign country, or playing cards in the back of the tour bus on a 6 hour bus ride from Luoyang to Xi’an…well it really was a lot of fun, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my summer. In all honesty, the touring part of the trip wasn’t necessarily as exciting as it was just going around with a bunch of friends. With all the good being said, I really can’t think of any negatives that the first week of touring had, because I just had a blast.

The second week of the trip was also a unique and memorable experience, albeit in a much different way from the first week. The second week was spent at the Dandelion School about an hour outside of Beijing by bus. The experience there is something I will never forget. The kids there are so motivated to learn that if you don’t give it your all you feel as if you’d let them down. Staying in their dormitories really gave me a taste of what it was like to live their lives. To them the school dormitory was heaven on earth, and to a lot of us it was just about the worst place we’ve ever stayed in. Interacting with the kids on a daily basis, both on a teacher-to-student and a friend-to-friend level really made our stay that much more enjoyable. Between classes I would play some basketball with some of the guys, or play a board game with some others in the class. It was all fun to them, but they really buckled down fast when they realized that class had started. The amount that they could take in at once was truly amazing; they were just like sponges! Going to Dandelion also gave me a new found appreciation towards my school teachers; it REALLY isn’t as easy as it looks to teach a class. So much time and preparation goes into it that nobody really understands it until they’ve taken up the task. The program lasted from Sunday until Friday, which was when we left. During this time the kids (or at least mine) learned A LOT of English, which gave me a really good feeling that I helped these kids hopefully push on beyond middle school and into high school, or at least further develop their English.

When I came back to the US I had a couple of emails from my students in my inbox, which really touched me that they wanted to stay in contact. I also heard from my assistant teacher from Beijing Normal University that our class had the highest average on the final exam of all 10 classes, which as you can imagine, had me jumping around and celebrating. I’m really proud of all the kids I taught and hopefully most of them can go to high school and then on to college, and then get a job in the work force. I think often times a lot of us Americans take for granted that we can go to high school with no entrance screening, and college isn’t that much farther of a step. Going to teach at Dandelion really opened my eyes to what the world is like outside of the US, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to go.

 

Connie Ho (Boston Latin '08)    - August 27, 2008

The trip to Beijing was a good experience for me. I got to learn a great deal about Chinese culture and history by touring around the major historical sites. I was extremely happy about seeing so many cultural artifacts, because seeing them firsthand is very different from just reading about them in textbooks. It's the fact that everything is more three-dimensional when I saw it with my own two eyes. I was especially glad that we got to explore the night life by the river. It was a lot of fun and I saw more of the Chinese lifestyle than I did on just the tour itself. I would like to go there again someday.

As for our time at the Dandelion school, I felt that I gained a lot of things by being there; two of them being: 1) experience and 2) connections.

Our stay at Dandelion was, to say the least, different but in a good way. Although the public showers were awkward and the mattresses in the dorms were a little uncomfortable, I enjoyed volunteering there. The kids' smiling faces and eagerness to learn made teaching there a blast. At first it was a little challenging to communicate with the students because of the language barrier and whatnot, but we managed to overcome that and finished teaching them what was on their curriculum. By the end of my stay at the school, I kind of did not want to go home. I wanted to continue helping the students learn English because I became really attached to them. If possible, it would be nice to return to the Dandelion school someday and to spend more of my time there teaching.

Overall, I thought this trip was a great experience for me. It opened up my eyes to the situation migrant families face everyday; I feel that I should really do something about it. In any case, I'm glad that a part of my summer was dedicated to helping out at the school. I hope to go back again someday.

 

David Liu (Wheeler School '10)    - August, 31 2008

The trip to the Dandelion School was one of the most memorable events I have ever had. We were not only there to teach but also to see and learn why we are so needed. At the Dandelion summer school, we were instructed to teach about 10-13 students English with several other co-teachers. Me and my co-teachers, Margaret from Beijing Normal University, and Nate from Oregon University, taught 13 students who were between 11-14 years old, and who were going to middle school and most were going to the Dandelion school in the fall.

The first day of school must have felt very confusing and scary for the students and they showed it by forgetting to say the school motto at the commencement event. In the morning, the students had memorized the Dandelion motto in English and in Chinese, however, once in the presence of the headmaster and other adults, the students completely forgot the English words. After the first day, the students became more sociable and more determined to learn English. In order for the students to have fun learning English, we devised several games to incorporate what they learned to daily things. For example, we played a game in which a student had to act out something and the students had to guess. Although each day I went to sleep at about 10/11 PM to make plans for the lessons and waking up at 6 to eat, I felt happy everyday at Dandelion and not a bit tired. I was energized by the notion that I was contributing to each kid’s future.

The main thing that was not so good at the Dandelion school was that the boy’s dormitory did not have air con and each room had a very small window so the room was always hot, humid, insect infested, and smelled like the boys bathroom each night. At night, no matter how much I sweat, I could not keep cool. I resorted to drinking about 2 L of water every day and it helped me stay hydrated after sweating so much every day. The school is in okay condition; however some things need to be changed. For example, one classroom has a floor that looked like a bomb blew up on it, with holes everywhere.

I feel that the School’s mission of helping immigrant children is very promising and the only thing that is stopping the school from succeeding is that it needs the funds so that it can make the school better. I learned a lot in the five days and I hope the students learned as much as I did. I learned to be like the students and try as hard as I can in anything. The school gave me a very humbling experience because there was so little resource yet they were able to do a lot with that little. I learned that we don’t need a lot to be happy. The Dandelion school has changed me and changed the students who will someday find themselves in a brighter future.

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