• 22Aug

    Friday concluded the summer camp tour!  It was probably the toughest of all the camps.  We had just under 200 students at this camp with roughly the same number of volunteers as the other school camp.  It still ran really well though!  The kids seemed to have a great time and that’s the part that matters.  We were blessed with the presence of a team of volunteers from Sichuan (the province just to the north of Yunnan {where I live}).  Their specialty is with various ‘acrobatic’ type skills.  They juggle, ride unicycles, balance on a board that’s on top of a cylindrical thing, and hula-hoop [can that be a verb?].  They ran the “games” rotation so they taught the kids the basics of all those skills.  This camp copied the same schedule as the “Bringing in the Hope” post.  So it was nice to have some familiarity with how things were to be run.

    The school that we were at this week is the same school that has the library we’ve been working at.  It’s also the same school that has had Camp Hope come for 3 years now.  I think that our previous presence at this school created a different dynamic from the last school camp that we did.  A lot of these kids were already used to the whole routine so the novelty had warn off.  It was good in the sense that it forced the teachers to be a little more creative so that the kids weren’t ‘bored’ or uninterested in what was going on.  The curriculum was mostly different from my understanding from the previous years but there were still parts that were similar.

    I particularly bonded with a group of the older girls.  It was really great to be able to communicate and understand what was being said!  These girls loved to tease me so it was nice to know WHAT I was being teased about as well as being able to tease back!  An interesting note, while this was a camp for Kindergarten to 6th grade, some of these girls we really think are more 7th or even 8th grade aged.  Sometimes parents can have a difficult time having the proper documentation for the kids to attend the school as well as not having enough money to afford schools.  So with these set back sometimes kids won’t start kindergarten until age 7.

    This week’s camp had a lot less emotions at the end.  I think that these kids have the expectation that the camp will return and even if not the camp they will still see some of the volunteers at the library.  It was also about to downpour rain as we were ending camp so it made the final exit very anti-climatic and even chaotic.

    We had another great group of volunteers at this camp.  The Singaporean team was a really fun group of girls [I suppose ladies is a more appropriate term].  Now that I’ve met like 10 Singaporeans I think I’m pretty close to knowing everyone in their country… haha.

    Alright enough words… I’ll let the pictures do the talking!


    Here is the school courtyard.  The classrooms are the white buildings that surround the courtyard.  The library is to the left of this picture in an add on like room.  This school will have over 1000 kids attending this coming semester.  I think we counted 16 classrooms.  So that’s averaging 62 students per class… the school is about 600/semester to attend.  The tuition goes up as the grade gets higher.  The cost only covers books and a few notebooks.  If the child wants to live and eat at the school the cost goes to over 1000 per semester.  A decent salary for a parent who’s kids are attending this school might be around 500-800 per month.  So having multiple kids in school can really add up (Especially when you think about how it costs at least 500 a month for rent).  And this school is considered cheap.  Our first camp used a different school’s facilities and that school costs around 1200/semester just for tuition and books.


    Here’s the whole group!  We were about 180 kids and 40 volunteers (the acrobat team was about 15 people).


    Does this little guy look familiar?  Back in February we helped him get a heart surgery to repair the hole in his heart as well as some other procedure.  Back in May we had dinner with his family to celebrate his recovery and now we got to see him again at this week’s summer camp.  I’m pretty sure that his face says everything as far as how he’s doing.  Such a cute kid!


    A craft class showing off their project!


    Aren’t kids cute?  We taught to “Stop, Think, Act” this day, but I suppose our signals can duel as fun glasses!


    There’s always the option of using your hands as glasses though.


    Here’s Andreas and his very fashionable bear hat.  He’s here visiting from Sweden!


    This was a really cute game to watch but I have no idea what the appeal is for the kids to play… and yet they played forever.  The kid in the middle skips around the center of the circle while the rest sing something like “looking to a find and meet a new friend, where can I find one”.  Then they stop at someone and sing something like “hello new friend I salute/greet you and shake your hand, you are now my new friend, good bye.”  Then the two kids change places… and now the new person in the center skips around… and it goes like that forever.


    Here’s Pei trying the unicycle.  She was rather determined to learn.  She did quite well but couldn’t quite get up enough confidence to not hold onto someone or something while going.  I didn’t try for fear of killing myself.  Visiting a Chinese hospital was/is not high on my list of things I want to do while in China.


    Chinese Pipi Long Stockings!


    I think this one is a little confused about the hand motion for this part of the dance…


    To infinity and beyond!


    The red team!


    Rain was a problem throughout the week.  It would downpour and then be sunny then downpour again.  This particular morning the kids were lined up and the principal wanted to address the kids.  As he begins to talk it starts to rain pretty hard… now you’d think that the principal would try to speed up his speech or something… nope.  He continued to talk and talk while the kids all had to stand at attention.  It made for great pictures though!


    This is about how we felt by the end of the week!


    Here are the acrobat people.  This was their grand finale!


    Just as proof to show that I was there.  These were two of the girls I was talking about at the top of this post.

    That about sums up the week!  Hope you enjoyed the pictures.


  • 15Aug

    Whew!  What a week!  I think that I was home maybe all of 40 hours in the last 6 days, most of which I spent sleeping!   The last camp we had was held in a Retirement Home in the West Mountains.  We had 35 kids brought from a few neighboring cities, LuQuan and ShiLing area.  These kids were “selected” because they all have some type of family “situation”.  Most of these kids are missing at least one if not both parents.  This week was the most like a “camp” being that the kids were sleeping over at a location and there were chaperons also sleeping there.  I commuted in all but one night but my two roommates stayed at the facility the whole week.  The kids arrived Sunday evening and returned home on Saturday morning.  Commuting made for extra long days for me as it took at least 35 minutes and up to an hour to get from my home to the location, luckily some mornings I’d meet them at the field trip spot.  On Monday we went to the park by the lake, Tuesday we went to the movies, Wednesday we went to the zoo, Thursday we went to the doctor/dentist (not a fun field trip but necessary!), and Friday we went hiking in the West Mountains.  We would field trip in the morning to early afternoon then have “classes” or activities for them.  In the evenings we played movies a few nights and on Friday night we had an encouragement session for the kids.  It was a really long week but totally rewarding.  Having on 35 kids makes it so much easier to build deep relationships with the kids.  By Wednesday I had my own personal following including one girl who wouldn’t let go of my arm!

    These kids were really amazing.  We heard some great stories from these kids over the course of the week.  On Friday one of the leaders recalled how she was telling one of the students that they were really special and a good kid.  He said that it wasn’t true because his father always tells him that he’s not.  The leader continued to explain to the kid how he was special and all the ways that she thought that he was special.  He asked her repeated if she REALLY thought that he was a good kid and special.  She continued to affirm him.  Finally it sunk in and he just cried saying that he never had anyone say that to him.

    There was also the story of the sisters (13, 11) who instead of asking their mom or grandpa for money to buy things, they would after school go around town collecting plastic bottles and other recyclables to earn a few dollars so they can buy ice creams or even shoes if they choose to save their money.  The younger one and I went down the street to buy some snacks and she insisted on buying.  Everytime I tried to pay she’d just giggle and say that she was treating me and that she wanted to pay!

    Overall these kids were really filled with so much joy and love that it’s tough to tell that they come from less than ideal family situations.  It was a blessing for me to be involved with this camp.  It has been my favorite so far of the 3 we’ve done.  It was a bittersweet departure for a lot of them as they were starting to miss home but at the same time they didn’t want the camp to be over.  On Friday, we treated them to a slideshow of all the pictures throughout the week.  It was really funny… when the slideshow started and they saw themselves all big on the screen they just burst out laughing!

    One of the best parts of the whole week for me might have been on Monday afternoon at the park.  We had brought some frisbees so I got to throw the frisbee around.  One of the kids was a natural!  We were playing for a good 30-45 minutes straight.  He started to get really good at catching towards the end.  But then he started to think it was funny when I would go and chase down his more “errant” throws… so he started to try to throw them afar on purpose!  It was great to actually get to throw the disc around, I was definitely missing ultimate frisbee!

    Now on to the good part!  The pictures!


    Here’s the whole group!  We had some shirts donated from Singapore and bought the hats for the kids.  It sure made it easy finding all of our kids when we were on our field trips!


    I wish I could put the whole sequence of pictures up for the hat throwing, it was super fun!


    A whole theater to ourselves!  Originally we were supposed to get to watch Toy Story 3… but something went wrong and we ended up watching a French movie (dubbed in Chinese) called something like “The Adventures of Adelle”.  It was quite entertaining!  Kind of like a female Indiana Jones story.


    The kids played a fun game that was a spin on Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Everyone starts as an “egg” (squatting position) so then you battle a different egg.  If you win you mature to a chicken (bent over with the beak) and you have to find another chicken to battle.  If you lose you stay an egg finding another egg to battle.  The chicken matures to the Cock (standing up straight with the feathers on the head) and then matures to the flying version I guess… couldn’t quite translate that part… but basically you get wings and are a “winner”.  The game leaves the 3 “losers” who get stuck with no one to battle in their group and are therefore stuck in their stage… I also suppose you could make these the winners too…


    I’m sure you’re wondering who the white kid is.  One of the classes was a counciling type class and she’s the daughter of one of the instructors.


    Group shot at the zoo!  We ended up giving all the kids a copy of this picture.  They were pretty stoked to get it.


    I’m sure you’re not supposed to have “favorites”, but really it’s not my fault that she’s so cute.  This little one was a good head shorter than all of her peers of her age… at first I thought she was 7, 8 max… find out she’s 12.  Along with being little she comes with a great smile and giggle.  So fun.


    Yay the dentist field trip… the little one from the last picture was a good trooper… she had 2 teeth pulled (baby teeth).


    And a doctor check up!  A lot of ear infections.  One kid with an ear infection so gross that Dr. John said it smelled… eww.  But all in all very healthy kids!


    The one standing next to Ruth on Ruth’s right is the girl who was very attached to me… like actually attached in the sense that I couldn’t use my arm.  Haha.


    Look a turkey with a hard hat!


    No that’s not paint.  That’s water from the lake.  This lake celebrates St. Patrick’s Day year round… Pretty gross.


    Here you can see where “fresh water” is coming in (the brown stuff) and mixing with the current lake water (the green stuff…).  Gross.  Not sure I want to eat fish from either source.

    Hope this makes up for not posting for a really long time.  As you can see I’ve been quite busy.  Speaking of busy… this coming week we’re jumping right into our next camp.  Saturday morning we loaded the kids on the bus and said good bye and then headed straight over to the office to train the volunteers for this coming week’s camp.

    I’m really excited for this coming camp.  Not only is it the last camp, but it’s at the school where we run the library.  So it’ll be good to see some familiar faces.  Plus this will be the 3rd year, I think, that they will have had summer camps!

    More fun pictures to come!


  • 02Aug

    Last week was a very full week of working at our first SCHOOL summer camp.  Unlike the last camp that we had (which was for kids from a specific neighborhood) this camp was for kids all from the same school.  This school was in the North side of Kunming pretty close to the area which they call “the village in the city”.  As you can imagine the conditions there aren’t favorable.  You can tell that it’s not great area from the moment you turn on the only street to the area.  The road itself was in poor condition, even at times missing huge chunks, and very narrow.  Also there are motorcycles, minivans, and horse carriage like things all at the start of the road waiting to take people “into” the area, of course for a fee.  The school itself was in far better condition than I expected.  It was not a great school but I think the school that we’ve been doing library work at has less favorable classrooms.

    Here’s a view of the school.


    The classrooms are on the right side in the 3 story building.  3 classrooms on each level.  We used the first and second floors for our classes.  We had 5 stations that 5 teams rotated through; English, Story, Craft, Games, and Music.  It was a great set-up for allowing 150 kids to get the more “individual” attention that they would need to build relationships with their leaders.  All of the kids were on a specific team that had a “homeroom”, which had a “team ‘mom’/leader” and a few volunteers (foreigners and locals).  The kids would meet in their homeroom every morning, eat breakfast and lunch together and also work on a team song that they performed on Friday.  I think it provided great stability for the kids and opportunities to play with the same leaders everyday.  By Friday I could see so many of the kids connecting with a lot of the volunteers but especially their team’s volunteers.  Each team of volunteers was in charge of a specific station so they were teaching the same thing basically 5 times, but the team “mom” would follow their team to all the stations.  On Friday, and even Thursday, we had a lot of emotional kids not wanting the camp to be over.  It was really neat to see how much just spending 4 and a half days with these kids meant to them.


    It was really cute after the camp on Friday a lot of the kids found some paper and went around asking for all the volunteers to sign it and write a little something, kinda like a yearbook.  While we were in our after camp meeting on Friday, for the leaders, we still had kids lurking around the classroom at the back windows peering in to our meeting… all while sniffling and crying.

    All of the volunteers did an amazing job.  We were volunteers from 4 countries (China, USA, Sweden, and Singapore) all coming together to just serve the kids.  Our message was “You are special” (and no not in the ‘short bus’ kind of way).  A lot of these kids will never go to Junior High School either because their parents can’t afford it, they can’t test high enough to get into one, or they don’t have the proper documentation (like a birth certificate) to attend a “higher” education school.  So it’s easy for these kids to think that they don’t matter or even that they don’t mean anything.  This camp hopes to change that for them.  We had one girl give her leader a thank you letter stating that before the camp she never felt like she meant anything, but that this camp helped her to realize that she was so much more and that she was special!  Such a great blessing to be able to hear stories like that.

    I’m sure that you can’t see anything but a blob of people.  But here’s everyone (except the photographer… don’t try to find me… someone has to snap the picture!!)


    It was a very fun week.  I was often surrounded by kids wanting to be photographers.  They took some funny pictures.  I even had one do a good impression of some “Petrified Forest” footage that I’ve seen (don’t know that story? Ask my parents about that one!).  Here’s my favorite shot by the kids.


    Hmm I think something is missing from this picture… or maybe it isn’t… maybe this kid didn’t like the volunteer!  Hehe.

    It was neat to see the volunteers from the States, particularly the men, playing with the kids.  On the first day the kids were very cautious and even hesitant to be near them… but all of that changed rather quickly.  By the second day the US team was constantly swarmed by the kids.  The guys were really busy!  They were giving piggyback rides and things of that nature with the kids.  It was sooo fun to see the kids have facial expressions of pure joy while it was “their turn”.  I was telling the guys that it’s extra neat for the kids because typically the dads here don’t play with their kids, especially these kids.  Most of these kids dads are probably very very busy with work and very hard labor like work.  So when they get home they probably just want to eat, drink, smoke, watch some tv, and go to bed.  Also picking up your kids here is more as a mode of transporting your kids not as a way of playing with them.  So a piggy back ride here isn’t full of running or jumping or spinning, it’s just a way to carry your kid from point A to point B.  It was also neat to see the local volunteers start to play with the kids the same way as the USA team.  The local team was probably raised the same way, where dad or mom didn’t necessarily play with them like that, so it was new to them too!



    Over the 5 days I ONLY took 1,300 + pictures.  (And that’s after deleting all the “bad” ones).  There was just nothing to take pictures of… hahaha!

    Alright, I’m sure some of you are wondering where the pictures of me are (and those of you who aren’t just skip ahead)…


    There’s my proof that I was there.  Haha.  I did have one little girl following me around telling me what to take pictures of.  We would wander the courtyard and she would drag me around, then tell me to take pictures of this teacher or that student.  My own personal director.  She never wanted to be in the picture but just wanted me to take the picture.  Cute.

    I’ll end with some of my favorite shots of the week.





    A little note on this picture.  This girl was basically “high jumping” over a small rope.  You can see the girl in the pink jacket towards the back is holding something about ear height.  She holding one end of the string there at her head, while the girl in the air runs and tried to get her feet over the string.  In this game you just have to land on the other side of the string and there’s no penalty for touching the string.  After this height the string holders go to the top of their heads and then as high as their arms will go… at that point the jumping girl will cartwheel trying to get over the rope.  Really neat to watch.



    Everyday at the end of the camp the leaders would create a tunnel for the kids to run/walk through.  A fun way for the kids to go home!

    Hope you enjoyed my recap of the summer camp.  This week is an off week, then we start back up again next week!

    Here’s a fun picture of my friends.  Pam, Phiona (yes with a Ph), Lucy (XiaoLu), Susanna and Ruth!  It was Phiona’s birthday so we all went out to dinner!


    I hope this post finds you well!  I can hardly believe that it’s been 6 months already!  This week will be a little tougher for me as I’m missing out on our family camping trip!  Maybe I’ll get some people here to play Uno with me so at least I can feel a little like I’m on the trip.



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