You can become a volunteer teacher for Educating Girls of Rural China like I did in Summer 2018.
Applications are now open for volunteers in Summer 2019.
At the bottom of the page there is also a video where my students talk about their experience.
In July I spent one week volunteering as an English teacher at an English learning camp organised by Educating Girls of Rural China (henceforth EGRC).
EGRC empowers women in rural regions of western China to escape the cycle of poverty through education. Since 2005, EGRC has provided education to 842 girls, and to date, 111 girls have graduated from high school and 366 girls have graduated from university.
In 2016, EGRC started running English learning camps during the summer holidays. The purpose of the English learning camps is to: give students an opportunity to practice their spoken English; introduce them to different teaching methods; bring English to life; build their confidence; and expose them to different perspectives. So far, 80 girls have participated in EGRC’s English learning camps.
The application process for becoming a volunteer teacher was quick and easy. I sent my CV and a covering letter to EGRC’s Director outlining why I wanted the role and why I was suitable. Shortly afterwards I received a reply inviting me for an online interview with the Director. The interview was approximately 30 minutes long and covered all the usual questions. I felt nervous before the interview but I had prepared some notes and stuck them to the wall behind my laptop so I was prepared if my mind went blank!
My role was to teach English to seven university students for four hours a day, for eight days. Despite the straightforwardness of the role I felt nervous! I was worried about what to teach them and how; but luckily I received training!
The training was conducted online by a partner organisation called Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones is a not-for-profit charitable organisation with a mission to improve the education and general welfare of disadvantaged children in China.
The training was thorough providing information about: EGRC and Stepping Stones; the English learning camps; lesson planning; and teaching resources and tips. Afterwards I felt more confident and ready to take up the challenge!
Before setting foot in Gansu I planned sixteen 120-minute lessons. This took approximately 4 to 5 days, which was tiresome, but well worth it. As a result I didn’t have to do any planning once I arrived in Gansu.
The lessons were theme based and covered topics the students were interested in according to the pre-arrival questionnaires they filled in. The lessons covered topics such as: family, food, British culture, university life, jobs, health, and the environment.
The learning camp I volunteered at was held in an area of Gansu province called Longxi, at an EGRC recipient’s home. The home was based in the countryside and had sheep, cows, pigs and bees! The family were very hospitable and made our stay in their home extremely comfortable.
On the first night, the students organised a group meeting and decided they wanted to have their English lessons from 8.30am to 10.30am and 3pm to 5pm each day. This gave them time to fit in other activities such as: cleaning, cooking, resting, playing, and contacting their family and friends.
The English lessons went well. I’m pleased I’d prepared all the materials beforehand and only needed to search the internet a couple of times to find images and word definitions. The biggest challenge was finishing on time! I had a lot of content and I wanted to give the students lots of opportunities to practice speaking English. The students were always willing to continue the lessons and then I’d adapt the following lesson to finish a little earlier. The only other challenge I encountered was energy levels began to dip on day 6, so I adapted a few activities to make them more interesting.
In the evenings, we also made time for activities such as going for walks and playing card games. Their favourite card games were: Spoons, Sevens, Cambio, and Concentration.
The highlight for me was getting to know the students. They are incredible young women – smart, funny, kind, and hard working. It was an honour to meet them.
They went above and beyond the call of duty; not only studying for four hours each day, but also preparing three meals a day (for everyone including the host family), washing up, and cleaning the common areas.
Other learning camps
In addition to the learning camp I attended, there were three other learning camps. You can read about the other three learning camps here.
After the learning camp I had time to sightsee in Gansu. I visited four tourist destinations: Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, Zhangye, and Lanzhou. In these cities I saw caves, desert, and parts of the great wall.
I would highly recommend this volunteering opportunity to others. It is exceptional and 100% rewarding. I hope I get to do it again one day!
Thanks for reading.