Partnering with well-known universities in China, Shin Shin has sponsored several college student groups to visit Shin Shin schools every summer since 2009.
The University Outreach program was driven by China’s rapid development, which brought significant changes to Shin Shin schools and their needs in education. In order to better understand the schools’ current situations and accordingly adjust the operation of Shin Shin’s educational programs, such as the “One Book Per Child” Literacy Program, the ECTT (English and Computer Teachers Training) Program, E-Learning, and Facility improvement etc.. Shin Shin initiated the University Outreach program to involve local college students to visit rural schools , collect status surveys, as well as build up friendship between college students and rural children.
The pilot program began in 2009, with the assistant of Xu-Dong Shi, Director General of Peking University Education Foundation (USA) in conjunction with the Youth League Committee of Peking University. Betty Yuan led a team of Shin Shin volunteers (Teresa Wu al.) to work with the student association at Peking University in China. The team designed school status survey questionnaire, allocated expense funds to students, and coordinated with Hunan Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to carry out the plan.
This program took advantage of the overlap time of college summer vacation and primary schools’ final weeks of classes. Students were selected and trained by the Peking University committee before their journey started. They were divided into two teams, each of which spent seven days to visit 22 Shin Shin schools in Hunan.
Not only did the Peking University students reach the remote areas to conduct the survey and research, but also they investigated the current situation and the needs of Shin Shin schools. Additionally, the interactions with these “big brothers and big sisters” opened the eyes of the rural children to see how knowledge could help them accomplish their goals and communicate with the outside world. The Peking University students from the city also experienced the simple life of innocent rural children, so they could appreciate more of their opportunity to receive higher education. In the future, they would certainly become contributors to the society.
In 2010, the University Outreach program expanded to involve three universities. From Peking University, 12 students visited 15 Qinghai schools to survey the school’s current condition and to understand the impact of Shin Shin’s programs. From Tsinghua University, 24 students visited one Hunan school, conducted a two-week summer camp that included language, speech, writing, math, computer, English, art and physical education. From Fudan University, 28 students visited 7 Hunan schools, taught teachers basic computer application and maintenance skills, and teaching techniques using multimedia equipment.
In 2011, Jilin University joined the program for the first time with 28 college students visiting 8 Shin Shin schools in Jilin. Fudan and Tsinghua Universities again participated in the program. Shin Shin volunteers Can Wang, Xiangjun Dong, Yuan Wen, and Jin Sun managed the program closely with their best effort. 16 students from Tsinghua visited a Hunan Shin Shin school, and 11 Fudan students visited two Jiangxi Shin Shin schools. Each of the three student groups set their own program goals and designed their own special sessions. Some taught students math, English, music, and art, some trained teachers in computer and IT skills, and others established a service center for periodic outreach activities. All of these programs greatly benefited both the Shin Shin students and teachers, and the college participants. The children’s hearts were warmed by the visitors, and the teachers’ skills were improved in the training, and the participants’ spirits were lift up by what they saw and what they did.
The University Outreach program increased our understanding of Shin Shin schools, motivated Shin Shin students to study hard, and provided effective tools to improve teaching quality. For those college students, this program gave them first hand experience and insight into the life of children in these remote regions, which heightened their desire to do more to help the disadvantaged children.