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To touch the rainbow in the sun: Sunners volunteering group
Author:Pan Jiachang  Date:2018-12-07  Clicks:

On November 18, a large sharing session about WHUers’ education-supporting experiences in rural areas was held by a special student group in the lecture hall of the Fifth Teaching Building. The experience-sharers are from different schools and grades, and some of them are even graduates of WHU from other cities. They have a common name: the Sunners.

WHU’ s Sunners, who belong to Sunners Volunteering Group (SVG), devote themselves to supporting the education activities in rural areas. The organization , established in 2009, focuses on the dilemma of elementary education development in poverty-stricken areas and particularly provides summer camp programs for rural children aged from 9 to 13. Most volunteers are from WHU, though students from other colleges and universities can also be enrolled.

Volunteers in Yilong Sichuan

SVG’s founder, Li Kexin, who was once a student at the School of Journalism of WHU, chose to take a year off to focus on SVG and its long-term development plans. With a vision to design the most suitable summer camp model, she came to Beijing - alone - looking for help from education experts and sociology professors. “It was really a hard decision to take a year off, as my parents and the professors didn’t support me at all. But I knew that I would lose the passion and motivation to start again had I stopped at that moment. In fact, I did encounter numerous impediments and, as I had expected, it was like knocking my head against a stone wall in Beijing. But I just felt a sense of mission to help the rural children, so I wrestled with the obstacles and persevered. Now, I owe the success of the program to my continued firm resolution of the past. What’s more,  WHU’s principle of providing a free and open atmosphere for students, enabled my one-year-gap choice and offered me with a platform to do what I want”, Li Kexin said.

In the summer of 2018, Sunners Volunteering Group  of WHU held summer camps for rural children in Red River of Yunnan Province, Yilong of Sichuan Province, Enshi and Luotian of Hubei Province, themed “Companion, Enlightenment and Empowerment”. A series of lectures on science, music, art, architecture and other topics were provided to the children with the aim of cultivating their independent character, imagination and leadership.

Children with their artworks

In the past ten years, 2,888 volunteers have been trained for these summer camp programs, and 9,809 rural left-behind children have participated in the programs, with visible benefits. Members of the organization’ s professional leader group hail from more than 10 colleges and universities, including Wuhan University, Peking University and Boston University. Most of them are education experts in their respective research field, which offers great variety of lectures and camp activities.

A volunteer giving children a lecture on law

Zou Di, a music composer, was a volunteer in the summer camp of Yilong, Sichuan. On her he first day as a volunteer teacher, she asked all the children to describe their hometown in just a few words. The children thought carefully and wrote down their words on colorful paper. In children’s eyes, the world is so amazing.. “Their hometown changes greatly, just like a small willow.” She was deeply moved by the children’s simplicity and, at night, she decided to write a song using the children’s own words.. The second day, when Zou Di  played the song with a guitar, the kids were amazed. “I really love music and, today, I experienced the essence of it: happiness. I hope one day I can be a person like Miss Zou”, Zhang Xiaoqing, one of the students, said. She wrote in her diary, “this moment becomes slow and quiet, and my heart is lit by the shining dreams of the kids, as if I have returned to my own childhood.” Zou Di told the kids, “I will leave you in a few days, but I will always miss you.”

Some children were greatly transformed by the 15-day summer camp. A shy girl who had previously been afraid to communicate with others became the speech representative in the closing ceremony. Other children had learned to organize activities and take the lead in their groups. The children’s change and creativity, as well as their optimism, gave much encouragement to the volunteers.

Wu Mei, another Sunner who is from Economics and Management School of WHU, says she has gained a lot from the volunteering experience. “Being a Sunner has changed my life”, she said with a smile. “I used to not be very good at getting along with people, and would be uneasy when coming into contact with strangers. However, the interaction with the children made me feel trusted and needed. When they took my hands on the way to school, kissed me before going to sleep, or told me how much they missed their parents, and shared with us their deepest feelings, I felt trusted and deeply touched. This experience of being trusted has both empowered, and encouraged me to be more confident. Now, I am called ‘a girl with passion and enthusiasm’, totally different from my previous self. I really treasure the experience.”

Wu Mei in camp activities

What’s more, Sunners Volunteering Group’s new form of education support is really innovative with far-reaching impact. Most rural education support programs today just provide kids with some fragmented knowledge. This makes it hard for children to build up a systematic knowledge structure and brings about few tangible long-term benefits. However, SVG’s lectures and camp activities aim to inspire children’s interest in learning and building up their confidence and independence. This method is designed specifically with rural left-behind children in mind and it is expected that it will benefit them more in the long run.

Sunners inviting villagers to join activities

“Compared with booklore, a good character, good values and ambitious dreams are much more important”, said Lu Jiangfeng, a senior from the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of WHU, “Rural children, in fact, are not very different from children in urban areas. They are naughty and shy, kind and also pure. It’s a pity that they often have less access to educational resources, especially good teachers. We college students, who have gained more learning experiences and who have access to resources, should really try to do something for the rural children. And, I feel honored to have done my part.”

“We want to be the innovators and practitioners in the field of rural area education support”, Li Kexin, the founder of SVG, said and continued, “We are developing educational products suitable for rural China and working on their applicability, based on the evolving new educational theories and methods worldwide.” More and more people are joining SVG today and start to focus on the issue of rural children’s education. We are looking forward to seeing more Sunners, who enable us to touch the rainbow in the sun.

Photo By Wu Mei

Edited by Wei Yena, WangWei, Shi Weiya & Hu Sijia


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