PEOPLE
Volume 18 Number 2
Beijing's Student Voluteers
01 April 2005

Keen to learn more, I join some Love Heart members on their weekly visit to Hong Yan School. Founded in 2001, the school offers education to children of migrant workers who might otherwise miss out on schooling altogether.

LI HUANGHAUNG is a third year mathematics major at Beijing University and President of its 400-strong group of volunteers, the Love Heart Association. Every week dozens of its members give time to a range of voluntary activities, from teaching blind children to visiting elderly people at nursing homes. With over 11 years’ history, the association is one of the biggest and best-known at the University.

On top of his studies, Li devotes over three hours’ work a day to the association. ‘I’m leading a happy life so I think I have time and energy to help others,’ he comments phlegmatically. ‘Besides, I learn how to organize projects and communicate with other people which I really enjoy.’

Keen to learn more, I join some Love Heart members on their weekly visit to Hong Yan School. Founded in 2001, the school offers education to children of migrant workers who might otherwise miss out on schooling altogether.

The bus journey to the school takes us deep into the northern tip of Haidian District, an area of Beijing that was predominantly fields only 10 years ago. Big black Audis share the bumpy roads with horsedrawn carts while rows of greenhouses compete for space with brash new apartment complexes.

Hong Yan school is tucked out of the way over one kilometre from the nearest bus stop. We arrive during the mid-morning break and some of the children, whose ages range from four to 15, literally clamber over each other to play with us, sing songs, or simply smile, laugh and touch.

Inside the classroom, the crumbling stone walls seem a world away from the cutting edge language laboratories at the University. I face a class of 40 expectant 10-year-olds. After a few raucous renditions of ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, I struggle to maintain order.

I am helped by a tiny girl with glasses on the front row who introduces herself as Helen. Not only does she manage to keep some of the more ebullient boys quiet, but she also translates some key words into Chinese for the rest of the class.

The school’s headmaster, Li Xiaoliang, used to be a businessman. He decided to set up the school when he heard that children of his relatives were finding it difficult to receive an education. He is effusive in his praise for the Love Heart members. ‘They don’t just teach knowledge, but they show my students that life is not only about making money, but also about helping and getting along with others.’


Their biggest contribution, however, is to ‘underline the value of education’ and ‘to encourage my students to learn as much as possible’. When they leave Hong Yan school, some two thirds of the children will go back to their hometowns to enter middle school while the other third will scrape a living on the tough streets of Beijing. Little Helen has every chance of making it to university.

And what does the experience mean to the student volunteers? Wang Yingbo, an active Love Heart member who is majoring in Thai, tells me, ‘When I was young my parents told me to be a good person. I received much love from my parents and friends so I want to pass on this love to many others. It’s funny but just through giving this love, I receive so much more.’
Rob Neal



For more information about the Love Heart Association visit loveheart.bdwm.net


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