A group of 20 undergraduate students from the IFTM Volunteer Circle recently spent a week of their summer break in the Mainland’s Guizhou Province, to support education at the Second National High School in Congjiang County.
The county is in the mountainous Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, in the southeastern part of Guizhou Province. The volunteering project followed the direction set in 2018 by a cooperation framework agreement between the People’s Government of Guizhou Province, the Macao SAR Government, and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Macao SAR, regarding poverty alleviation in Guizhou.
It was the fourth time that the IFTM Volunteer Circle sent a group to Congjiang to support English-language teaching in the county. The latest project ran from 30 May to 5 June, and it was co-organised by IFTM and the Education and Technology Bureau of Congjiang County, and sponsored by the Higher Education Fund of the Macao SAR Government.
During its time in Congjiang, the IFTM group established friendship links with the students and teachers at the Second National High School, strengthening the existing cooperation base between both sides. The exchanges also helped the IFTM volunteers to gain a better understanding of the needs and challenges faced by people living in Congjiang.
On-site project delivery
Before leaving Macao, the volunteers attended a session at IFTM to review their teaching plans. It was intended to better coordinate the educational work to be carried out by the IFTM group in Congjiang with the work being conducted by the teachers at the Second National High School.
On the group’s first day of formal activity in Congjiang, the IFTM volunteers were warmly welcomed to the Second National High School by Principal Mr. Zhou Haitao, Vice Principal Mr. Wu Wenwen, and by the school’s teachers of English.
The IFTM delegation also attended on the first day a campus-wide public-speaking contest and a singing competition. The events acted as showcases of the Congjiang students’ talents, and allowed the IFTM volunteers to learn more about the educational philosophy of the school, namely through the speeches delivered at the events by the school’s leaders.
In the following days, the IFTM volunteers cooperated with the school’s teachers to put on English-language activities, and participated in teaching as trainee teachers. They conducted classroom observation and actively prepared lessons, making their best effort to complete the assigned tasks.
In the teaching process, the volunteers carried out a variety of activities to help students improve their English vocabulary and grammar, and to understand how to use the international phonetic alphabet. Activities for the school’s students included watching instructional videos, performing translation exercises, engaging in storytelling, learning English-language songs, and dubbing cartoon movies into English.
Some volunteers also taught the school’s students techniques to improve their memory, to assist with their learning. One of the techniques discussed was the ‘method of loci’, which resorts to mental images to enhance the recall of information.
During the general exchanges, the IFTM volunteers talked about Macao and discussed their experiences of education at the Institute, allowing the Congjiang students to have a better understanding of the city and of the tourism and hospitality industry.
The second day of volunteering concluded with a discussion session among the IFTM volunteers. They talked about the educational strategies employed in their work, and the results achieved, with an eye on enhancing the overall effectiveness of the project.
On their final day in Congjiang, the volunteers held a meeting to summarise the outcomes of the project, and to put forward suggestions for improvements regarding future work there. They were joined by Second National High School Vice Principal Mr. Wu and by one of the school’s teachers of English, Ms. Yang Changqiong. The 2 representatives expressed their gratitude for the assistance and support provided by the IFTM group.
Educational resources brought by the IFTM Volunteer Circle to Congjiang were donated to the Second National High School, to support its work.
Planting new seeds
Looking back at their experience in Congjiang, many IFTM volunteers say they gained a fresh perspective on the importance of education. They also point out that the volunteering project contributed significantly to their personal development.
Sherry Ng Sin Lam, a student enrolled on the Cultural and Heritage Management Bachelor’s Degree Programme, says, “As long as you are willing to work hard, you can find out what each child cares about, and then use that for teaching purposes.” She adds, “This may give the children a reason to study hard, and improve their motivation to learn.”
Another IFTM undergraduate taking part in the project was Melody Lu Jingting. She is also a Cultural and Heritage Management undergraduate. “After interacting with the Congjiang students, I found that I have potential to become a public speaker, and that I have enough patience to instruct students when they have inappropriate behaviour in class,” she says. “The students’ gratitude and enthusiasm have greatly impressed and touched me. They have made me understand the importance of the role played by teachers.”
Leah Zhang Ying, from IFTM’s Hotel Management programme, served as a student organiser for the volunteering project. “Voluntary teaching is not just giving what you want to give. We have to learn to listen to the needs of the other side before we set our direction and goals,” she says. “We need to explore further what far-reaching impact we can bring to local students through this type of short-term support: What kind of ‘seeds’ we can plant in students, and how to plant them.”
By IFTM Lecturer Mr. Xing Fang