Thursday, September 06, 2007

EcoVillage of Hope: My volunteer experience at an Orphanage in China

During my time in Hong Kong, I decided to volunteer at the Taishan Orphanage in China through a non-profit organization in Calgary called the EcoVillage of Hope. I thought I’d get sick of Hong Kong and while I was in still in Japan, I had a vision to volunteer at an orphanage. Coincidence has it, I told Liz and she told me how she met two women from Calgary during her trip in China and how they were planning to start a non-profit organization in China and it involved work at an orphanage. Well, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. In between spending time with my family in Hong Kong, I would go up to Taishan by bus to help get the orphanage project started.

The project is quite complicated but I’m going to explain it as best I can. The first part of it is to help build sustainability in a village called Nam On. From Nam On, we hired some women to work as caretakers of the children in the Taishan Orphanage. This is a method of providing the women with an income. Further, we’re going to look at the methods of cultivation in place and see how we can help the village build sustainability. Here I have to add that I learned that peanuts grow from the ground and not on trees. I pulled some up myself! Also, volunteers who come from abroad like myself got to live in a house in Nam On village and the organization paid for the rent, which is another method of income for the villagers. A woman from the village also cooked our meals.
There is a whole lot more to the project such as helping the government to build tourism in Nam On and North Mountain (where I went white water rafting!) Also, the organization is looking to build an orphanage in Nam On Village. In October, a director from Canada will be filming a documentary of the area too. There is much to be done and after this project is done, the hope is to move into more remote areas of China to help build sustainability there as well.

I wish that I had more time to spend in Taishan because a lot of help is needed. Also, it was kind of a shock to me when I saw the children in the orphanage. I hadn’t expected them to be physically or mentally handicapped. Also, there was only 1 caretaker to 14 children, 3 of them which were only months old. But once we got the women in, we changed the whole place. On the first day, there was no color in the room, no smiles, no laughter, and barely any movement. By the time I left, the kids were laughing and playing with one another and showing more emotion. The disabled children were responding to our touch and were able to move a little bit on their own. It left a very good feeling.
However, I felt uneasy when I left because the 3 new volunteers did not even last 3 days. I think the culture shock was too much for them having to live in a village were the bathing water sometimes comes out yellow and working with children with disabilities and ugly heat rashes all over their bodies. Honestly though, if you have the heart to help, you can get through anything.

Anyways, I really hope that this organization can find the people that it needs. I would go back in a flash if I weren’t so broke at the moment. If you or know someone who would be interested in this, please get into contact with me and I will get you in touch with the right people.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Hong Kong Once Again: June 22 - July 22

So after backpacking through a huge chunk of Asia, Liz and I had a week in Hong Kong together before she returned to Canada. We shopped, partied and took it easy. The best part was a boat trip with her friends (AIESEC members and interns). About 30 of us rented a boat and set out for a day of sunbathing, swimming, wick boarding and banana boating. It was so much fun and we got some really great pictures out of it.
After Liz left, I helped the MC and interns move to their new flat. It took forever for us to pack things up and only so little time for the movers to empty out the apartment and move everything to the new place. The new place is amazing. It’s actually two apartments that are above one another that are connected by a spiraling staircase. The rooms are bigger than the old place and there are more so there will be double the amount of people living there. Plus, there is so much space to just hang out and of course, have parties. I forgot, half of the roof is theirs too. I’m sooo envious!

Whilst in Hong Kong, I met up with Godwin who was on his way to Adeline, Australian to start his AIESEC internship. We spent a day at Stanley shopping and looking at scenery. And I got to spend time with Liz's friends who took me to shek-o beach, Lamma Islang, the golfing range, 10th anniversary handover fireworks, etc.
Two of my aunts and 3 cousins (from Vietnam and Canada) had arranged to go to Hong Kong too so I decided to extend my Asia stay longer to spend time with them. It was a good decision because we had so much fun together. My uncle Lex’s friend had an empty one-bedroom apartment that he let us use. It was a beautiful place and perfect for a couple to live in. My aunts slept in the bedroom and us cousins slept in the living room. We had just enough space. Let me mention now that we were 6 females but we had no problem sharing the one bathroom. The atmosphere was great and we were always laughing and amusing ourselves. We shopped our hearts out, went to Disneyland Hong Kong, went to Ocean Park, gorged in yummy food and saw what needed to be seen of Hong Kong (The Peak, Lantau Island, Avenue of Stars, etc.). Now we’re plotting to all meet again in Hong Kong in 3 years.


I didn’t know that I had relatives in Hong Kong but it turns out that I do. One of them is my uncle Lex who’s a director and producer of Hong Kong movies. He took us to a karaoke bar one night that turned out to be a night to remember. Two of my cousins left their passports at home and had no other forms of ID on them. It just so happened that the police arrived to check everyone’s IDs…just like in the Hong Kong movies. The lights were turned on, the music turned off and one by one, we handed our IDs over. My cousins got taken back to the police station and I had to go home to retrieve them so that I could get my cousins out. Not to be mean but I thought the whole thing was really, really funny. I mean, they got to ride in a police car and they saw the inside of a holding cell. The cops were doing a shift change and were about to lock my cousins up but Lee Lee challenged them and said that they didn’t commit any crime. They let my cousins back out before they got their pants sued.

Anyways, after the police station, we went back to the bar because my uncle invited his celebrity friend to hang out with us. It was so cool. The whole night I felt like I was in a movie or something. You know, having the police take my cousins away, partying with celebrities. I never thought much of this guy but after meeting him in real life, I realized that he was pretty good looking!