WildChina recently helped arrange an Alumni trip for the Harvard Business School. Participant Luke Lu recounts his experience:
Prior to our departure, I had only glanced at our itinerary but I knew public service would be a part of our trip. I had my reservations. Those of us who were used to being spoiled in cities knew that we were going to a different kind of environment.While we were certain we would be afforded comfortable living conditions, most of us were very apprehensive because we had no experience with manual labor.
In Guizhou, the weather’s attitude seemed to mirror our own and we were greeted with wind and rain as we traveled through the province. Guizhou is in the Southwest of China, and like many of China’s provinces has a significant population of migrant workers who leave the countryside to find work in the city. As a result of this migration, the majority of the people in China’s rural areas are children who are too young to work in cities, and the elderly who are too old to be efficient. Our role in the village would be to provide strong backs to assist in the construction irrigation channels for the town’s rice fields.
Fortunately when we arrived, the villagers we would be assisting had already dug the majority of the earthen trenches for us. Our task would be to line these ditches with cement. Although this sounds simple, in reality there were many steps to the process. Not only did we have to carry our supplies to the work site, but we also had to mix the cement, pour it in the gutters, and then ensure that it dried properly.
The task at hand did not play to our strengths. We had developed minds, not developed muscles, and the tools we were most used to using were pens, not shovels. With no modern equipment we knew our collaborative skills would be put to the test. Our first day was very difficult. We didn’t have a good plan in place and were too disorganized. In the evening, we discussed our strategy and when we renewed our work in the morning we were much more efficient. We became so good at working together that on our last day we even managed to finish ahead of schedule. The locals said they were very impressed by this.
The last night we celebrated our success with a bonfire. Beneath a clear night sky we relaxed with the locals, singing songs and laughing as the children played around us. As we looked at the firelight playing on the smiles of the villagers our own hearts were warmed by what we had done. The result of our experience had gone beyond digging ditches, we had gained an appreciation for helping your fellow man and had discovered individual skills we didn’t know existed. Perhaps when other people hear about what we have done they will be inspired to donate their time as well. Water flows down a drain without being asked, hopefully the same will be true for volunteers in the future!
WildChina offers multiple trips to Guizhou for meeting minorities, visiting rustic landscapes and of course volunteering. If you would like more information about these or other trips in China please email firstname.lastname@example.org.