Kevin Gao - General Care Projects in China
I am a senior at university located in a small city called Nashville in the state of Tennessee, United States. I studied nursing and am fond of the field and people I interact with. When I had the opportunity to volunteer abroad, I knew I had to grasp this opportunity and enhance my nursing skills abroad. In the end, I went with Projects Abroad to Shanghai China to do the General Care Project. My family is from China, but I grew up in the United States so this was the perfect opportunity for me to use my nursing skills abroad and to engage in my own heritage.
The entire process with Projects Abroad has been splendid. Even before my departure, my advisor made sure I was prepared and answered all questions. They really care, as she would frequently call and check up on me despite the time zone differences. When I left, I did not know what to expect. I had several internships with many hospitals in the United States, but I never did any volunteering abroad. I expected this to be a very stressful and competitive experience, but I was soon to be introduced to a world that completely blew my mind.
Arriving in China
Shanghai, to this day, is one of my favourite cities, mostly because of my project. I still remember, when I arrived in Shanghai, I was exhausted but greeted warmly by two amazing Projects Abroad staff members. They showed me around my accommodation and how to navigate the city. Shanghai is perhaps one of the largest cities in the world! However, these two showed me how to fit into a colossal city like Shanghai.
My Care Project
After resting a few days, it was finally time for my volunteer work abroad. I was assigned to a wellness centre for children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a brain disorder that affects how the entire body behaves. People with cerebral palsy have a difficult time controlling movement and speech, the simplest tasks for us such as walking or even talking will be very hard for people with cerebral palsy. I was nervous on my first day at the centre. I did not know what to expect, and I was worried my limited Chinese would not be enough to get by.
On the first day, I was warmly acquainted with the staff and children at the centre. I immediately knew this was going to be a special experience. My time was the most enriching experience, and it is my favourite internship so far. I spent time with hardworking and bright children despite the limitations due to cerebral palsy. I was an assistant and helped the children with education classes and physiotherapy sessions. I did a wide range of activities and got to engage with the staff and children throughout their entire schedule.
My two months were filled with laughter, smiles, cries, and all emotions possible. I got to learn the stories of the children and staff and learned about their backgrounds. Everyone has a unique story that is worth listening to. It is because of these stories and smiles that made me fall in love with Shanghai. The tall towers of Shanghai, the countless lights that light the city night like stars are all beautiful sights o but nothing can compare to the smiles and stories shared at the centre. I will forever miss the classes with the children. I will miss helping them walk and encouraging them not to give up. I will miss telling stories about my home in America and how much I love Shanghai. I will miss the meals with my co-workers who treated me like family. I will miss all of the faces and the smiles of the people I met this summer. I will miss Shanghai.
Being at the centre was a quick getaway from the stressors of life. Despite our worries, these children have it worse than we do yet they are the most positive and happy people. Spending time with them made me realise how amazing people are and it gave me a lot of hope and positivity. I want to be happy like these children and take every day one day at a time. I came to Shanghai to engage in a community, but in the end, I learned so much more than I expected. I will be forever thankful for my time there and for Projects Abroad who orchestrated this experience!
I would recommend Projects Abroad to anybody. They are a fantastic and professional organisation that makes you engaged in the setting. We met every week to do activities as a group, and it is great to meet other likeminded people from around the world to form this friendship. I still keep in touch with the staff of Projects Abroad in Shanghai, fellow volunteers I met there, and the people at my project. I am very glad I decided to go to Shanghai, and this will be a memory I will hold on to forever. I will see you soon Shanghai!
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.