Charlotte Nielsen - General Care Projects in China
My time that I spent volunteering in Shanghai was the most incredible time of my life. Having spent my childhood years in Beijing and Hong Kong, I arrived thinking Shanghai would be similar to the other big cities in China. I was wrong. Shanghai is like no other city; the people, the food, the culture, it’s a thriving metropolis with its own unique urban flair!
Volunteering at the Boai Children’s Rehabilitation Centre and Ziluolan School truly put things in perspective for me. Seeing children who, despite their mental and physical disabilities, were still able to smile and laugh. Knowing that in some small way or another I played a part in bringing that about, was definitely one of the highest points of my experience in Shanghai.
I will always remember one small boy in particular at Boai. Although he has very severe cerebral palsy, he is always full of energy and ready for fun. He also likes to switch the fans on and off. One day he kept turning them on and off and his main carer was getting a little bit annoyed, as he was supposed to be reading a poem. I went over to him and said, “Xiao Yu-er, how about if we read your poem together and then I will turn the fan off.” With a mischievous grin on his face, he quickly replied, “How about you turn the fan off and then we can read the poem together!” He is without a doubt a very special boy!
The staff at both the rehabilitation centre and the school were very friendly and approachable and made my transition to work effortless, providing me with assistance and help if need be. They were also more than happy to show me the best places to experience local food at its best! I love xiao long bao (a succulent pork dumpling) and together with the other volunteers we’d have them for lunch almost every day!
My experience in Shanghai would not have been the same without my exuberant flatmates and the other volunteers. I really enjoyed meeting new people from all over the globe and exploring all that Shanghai has to offer. As soon as I landed in Pudong Airport and unpacked, my flatmates and I wasted no time and immediately set off on our Shanghai adventure - sightseeing on the Bund, going to buy special teas at Tea-City, visiting the WorldExpo and of course having fun in the evenings! One of our best evenings was definitely our girls’ night where the energy and atmospheres was unparallel. I am still in touch with many of the friends I have made in Shanghai and had a reunion with my flatmates not too long ago!
I have learned a lot from my time in Shanghai, but the most important lesson that I hope to take away from this trip is to have a compassionate and optimistic outlook in life. Volunteering in Shanghai is an experience like no other and I cannot emphasise just how much I enjoyed my time there.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.