Posted by: viaprograms | October 18, 2010

VIA coordinator implements a community health education project in Xisangi

Ming Jia is a Stanford ‘10 student who was a coordinator on VIA’s spring Serving American Community and summer Asia-U.S. Service-Learning (AUSL) Programs at Staford in 2009.  In the summer of 2010, Ming received a Haas Fellowship to implement a community health education project working with migrant workers in the communities outside of Beijing.

This summer, I was immersed in the local way of life in Xisanqi, a migrant worker’s community on the outskirts of Beijing – no fridge, no washing machine, one wok and a whole lot of fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market that was all but at my doorstep. The constant presence of a medley of dialects, some so exotic that I could barely understand, provided a glimpse of the cultural vibrancy that is hidden in this place of drab alleyways and tattered lean-tos. In the four weeks since I began my health education project as part of my Haas Fellowship, I found such fulfillment in broadening my perspectives. Not only did I find this simple lifestyle, so different from that in the States, to be extremely interesting, I also learned to develop a cultural savvy that allowed me to adapt my project goals to meet the needs of the migrant worker families that I wanted to serve.

The inspiration for my project was born during my time as a coordinator for the SAC and AUSL programs of VIA. I must thank the amazing participants of those programs for motivating me. During both SAC and AUSL, the final activity was to design an independent small scale project that the participants can take back to their home country. It was during this time that I began to believe that it may be possible to actually begin a small project abroad. Again, I turned to the friends that I made during my time with VIA to set up the foundations for the project. With the help of Ben and Lijun, a participant from AUSL, I was able to connect with the NGO, Zigen, in Beijing. And because of that, I was able to go and have the time of my life.

To end, I want to give a shout-out to all the awesome participants from the SAC and AUSL programs, my fellow coordinators, Ben, and all the other VIA staff, who have made my experience with cross-cultural service learning such a great one.

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