This summer, I was very lucky to have a chance to participate in the Western Sunshine Program, aimed at helping students in rural areas of China get access to better education. I, along with three other colleagues at Samsung, went to a rural area in Western China last month, where we stayed at an elementary school for a week. We were there to help college student volunteers out with a month-long summer camp.
The Western Sunshine Program is operated by a Beijing-based nonprofit organization called Enjoy Volunteering, and Samsung China has supported the program since 2004. Over the past 13 years, more than 3,000 college students and hundreds of Samsung employees have volunteered to take part in the program, which promotes education for students in rural villages.
The school we visited was located in Dong Yue, 136 kilometers from Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu. After landing at the Lanzhou airport, it took two hours by train and another hour by car to get to the school.
There were around 60 students attending the camp. Some of them had to walk more than two hours every day across rough roads through the mountains between their homes and the school.
We didn’t teach things from regular textbooks at the summer camp. Rather, the students got to sing, dance and have fun with paper crafts—things they usually don’t get to do during regular classes. They also had story reading sessions and learned about how science is applied in our daily lives.
Wenbin Lü, a senior analyst at China’s Samsung Economic Research Institute and our team leader, gave a special lecture on LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. He showed students how LEDs can be used in various ways, and even brought samples so they could see and touch them for themselves.
“Teaching in a rural school has been a long-time wish of mine,” Wenbin said. “The Western Sunshine Program helped my dream come true!”
On the third day, we played sports and games. Children and volunteers alike played to their hearts’ content and had so much fun. The school ground was full of laughter all day long.
We also had a special wedding ceremony at the school. Guang Yi and Xiao Wen from Enjoy Volunteering met each other a few years ago while volunteering at Dong Yue School as college students. They fell in love during a summer camp and eventually tied the knot, becoming husband and wife earlier this year!
When Mr. Peng Cheng Shi, the school principal, heard the news, he invited the couple for a special wedding ceremony at the school. They happily accepted the invitation, and also came up with an idea to help the children learn about how a traditional Chinese wedding was done.
The ceremony was a great success, with all of the students attending serving as witnesses to the happy wedding. In the afternoon, the students broke into groups to learn about customs related to Chinese weddings, including couplet handwriting, wedding hairdos, costumes, clay molding and picture book making.
It was such an extraordinary experience for me, and I know I will cherish it forever. The Western Sunshine Program is such a wonderful way for us, at Samsung, to get involved with our communities, and I hope other colleagues in China who have yet to experience such a great opportunity do so in the near future.
Most of all, I wish the brightest future for all of the volunteers in the program and the adorable children at Dong Yue School.