Welcome Letter

Dear Yale Alumni and Friends:

Travel with a purpose….

Have you ever thought about traveling abroad with a goal to give back? Not just to sightsee, but to serve others, to make a difference in someone’s life?

If you have, the Yale-China Association and the Yale Alumni Service Corps have an extraordinary opportunity for you—to see the real China, not merely the tourist sites, while working to create social change.

For two years the Yale Alumni Service Corps has sent alumni, their family and friends to project sites in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Mexico to work in impoverished communities. They’ve worked in local schools tutoring English and math, teaching arts and crafts, building playgrounds, coaching sports camps, conducting medical clinics, counseling small business owners…sharing any and all of their skills and talents with children and adults who are eager to learn. And all the while they learn about the culture and the people they are helping.

Since 1901, the Yale-China Association’s programs in health, education, public service, and the arts have been strengthening U.S.-China relations on a grassroots level. Yale-China’s work is based on the conviction that sustained, one-on-one contact between Chinese and American people not only enriches the lives of the individuals involved, but ultimately contributes to improved relations between our two nations. Yale-China believes that individuals—and individual organizations—can be a force for making the world more peaceful and humane.

Now, in an exciting partnership between Yale-China and the YASC, in this, the 100th anniversary of the Yale-China Teaching Fellowship Program, you have the opportunity to volunteer in China for two weeks–working with Chinese school children and adults to broaden their horizons, share our culture, and open doors to a different way of life. As in our other YASC projects we will also sponsor a variety of medical, construction and business consulting projects.

From July 9 through July 16 our alumni volunteers will be stationed in the rural town of Xiuning in Anhui province, about a four hour drive from Shanghai. Since 2005, Yale-China has been providing the Xiuning Middle School with four Yale-China teaching fellows committed for two years. Yale-China’s Teaching Fellows teach English and provide cultural enrichment in schools that have limited resources for such instruction. We are prepared to help them.

Then, from July 17 to July 21 our group will travel to Beijing to learn more ourselves while we experience China’s treasures, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, among others.

The need….

China is undergoing a new and massive cultural revolution. 1.3 billion people are in a mad dash to modernize, a mad dash from the poverty of rural farming to the relative affluence afforded by jobs in the big cities. Rapid development in China has led to a number of social issues, including “left-behind” children and growing income disparity.

It is estimated that there are currently 200 million migrant workers leaving 58 million “left behind children.” “Left behind” children refer to children who remain in their birth cities while their parents seek higher-paying employment in coastal cities for extended periods of time. These children are often cared for by other relatives, but in certain cases lack proper adult guidance.

Schooling is difficult so ultimately too few children find their way to school. Those who do gain admission most often leave their parents to live at school. Their schooling is rigorous and geared almost entirely to the university admissions tests since a high score on the exam is the ticket for a relative few to university and the likelihood of escaping rural poverty. They are China’s best and brightest hope, ready to learn so much more than they are offered.

And that’s where we can help.

“Xiàlìngyíng”  a cultural summer camp….

By sharing our gifts, we have the opportunity to broaden their experiences in the areas of western arts and ideas, expand their horizons by sharing our cultural perspectives on learning, including our skills, talents, and passion in a variety of areas. We will teach what they do not have the luxury of being taught – from musical drama to painting, from sports to creative writing, from conversational English language to cooking. We will teach whatever it is that you the volunteers want to teach – we will take advantage of your talents and your enthusiasm to share with others. All in a daily camp format which they call Xiàlìngyíng.

In return, we will learn a tremendous amount from our local partners. Yale-China’s work has always been based on a two-way street of learning. We are confident that many of you will take away much more from this rich experience than you may give.

In addition to offering this “cultural summer camp” in their school, we also want to provide medical assistance in the local hospital, build a playground and offer other maintenance assistance on the school grounds, counsel local entrepreneurs in how to run a business – we will offer any and all assistance given the skills of you, our volunteers.

The place….

Located in a rural area, Xiuning is a city of 270,000 rarely visited by westerners. That is why we are going there. The Yale-China program in the local school is well known, and the school officials are eagerly and excitedly anticipating our arrival. Ironically, Xiuning County is historically famous for having produced more zhuàngyuán (状元: the scholar with the highest score on the national Imperial examination) than any other place in China. Accordingly, the large public space in Haiyang Town is called Zhuangyuan Square (状元广场). This is a huge opportunity for them – a visit by a delegation of volunteers from the famous Yale University to work with their children!

Xiuning is also located near one of China’s most spectacular tourist destinations, the UNESCO recognized world heritage site Yellow Mountain. We will spend a day riding the gondolas or hiking to the top of these unusual mountains, what they call the cloud forest.

Our partners….

The Xiuning Middle School is the equivalent of one of our high schools, their upper schools being the universities. Roughly 2,000 students attend the school in grades 10, 11, and 12; most live at the school or in dorm like housing nearby. Most of the children come from the surrounding rural areas, having been “sent away” to school. The school, along with staff of the Yale-China Association, including its current Teaching Fellows, will be working throughout the year to put our Xiàlìngyíng together.

The working conditions and accommodations….

Because the school does not allow the children to participate in “extracurricular” learning activities during the school year – they are solely focused on preparing the children for the exams - we must conduct our camp during the summer, when it is HOT. There is no air conditioning since the school facilities are Spartan at best and entirely exposed to the elements.

That is the bad news. The good news: we will be lodged at Smoky Willow, a beautiful new resort recently completed on the outskirts of town. It is a five star facility with a scenic lake, restaurant, cottages, pool, exercise facilities, business amenities, and AIR CONDITIONING. Built by a large Hong Kong based real estate development company, it has been designed to lure weekend travelers from Shanghai. It is being offered to us at a remarkably low cost.

What can I do on this trip?

This service project will include an array of volunteer projects, designed to match the skills of our alumni participants and address the particular needs of the students and the broader community. Our service projects could include—but are not limited to—the following activities:

•    Educational enrichment / Creative arts – volunteers will offer an intensive enrichment program in subjects such as music, dance, crafts, visual art, literacy, creative writing, theater, and more.  The specific design of the educational program will depend in part on the skills and interests of volunteers who apply for this project. Tell us what you would like to teach! You have the chance to be as creative as only Yalies can be!  An ideal opportunity to release your creative energies…

•    Medical clinics -- alumni nurses, physicians, and pharmacists have the opportunity to provide clinical and diagnostic services in local hospitals.

 •    Public health – volunteers will lead workshops and activities for community members, designed to increase awareness of public health, hygiene, and basic first aid.

•    Construction and public works – Volunteers will work alongside alumni from Peking and Tsinghua Universities to improve the school grounds and perhaps build a playground.

•    Athletics – join fellow alumni and friends on the basketball court or the soccer field to offer exciting athletic camps for children and teens.

•    Small business management – volunteers with a background in design, marketing, accounting, or related fields will have the opportunity to work with adults who are eager to learn small business management skills, in order to manage their finances and work competitively at selling their goods and crafts in the local marketplace.

Families are invited to participate in the Service Tour with children age 7 and up. Young volunteers will be able to assist with the educational enrichment and athletic activities; older teens may also participate in the construction project.

Specialized skills are not required for participation in the Service Tour. Each project will involve a leadership team of volunteers with specialized knowledge in the project area, as well as bilingual volunteers including Yale-China Fellows to serve as interpreters. Project assignments will be based on a combination of volunteer interest, community needs, available space, and program logistics.

Your cultural experience….

While serving others you will experience a China not experienced by tourists. In the evening and on the weekend we will sponsor lectures and programs designed to immerse you in the culture of China and in particular, the Anhui province. There are no western style restaurants or entertainment….but ancient neighborhoods to roam, markets to visit, and people to watch.  Not to be missed is the local custom of western style ball room dancing in the streets at night!

In a pioneering program, we will be joined by alumni groups from Peking and Tsinghua Universities. Their alumni associations would like to have their alumni experience first-hand a community service project, and they would like to learn and share the experience with us. They will also be using their talents and skills to provide additional learning experiences for the children. We will have many joint events to get to know our new friends and share the joy of “giving back” together!

Who can go….

This trip is designed for alumni of all ages, including family and friends. On previous service trips our alumni have ranged in age from 19 to 85, and have included alumni from Yale College and nearly all of the graduate and professional schools. We will purposely make this a family friendly project where children can work side by side with their parents and, if they choose, work on their own with the Chinese school children in organized and supervised projects.

There is not a better gift you can give your children than working side by side serving others   all the while taking in the culture of rural and urban China. They will learn on so many levels.

The cost…

Here’s a pleasant surprise: the cost of the trip is $2,100 for two weeks! The price includes all lodging, most meals, sightseeing entrance fees, buses and guides.

Program Fee (double occupancy) not including airfare        $2,100

(If you would prefer to meet us there using points or putting together your own itinerary.)

Single room supplement (if you do not want a roommate)   + $600

Program cost includes:

•    Accommodations at the Smoky Willow Hotel in Xiuning (9 nights, double occupancy), one night in Shanghai and 4 nights at the hotel in Beijing.

•    All meals with the exception of 2 dinners and 2 lunches on your own

•    Daily ground transportation for projects and all group activities in Xiuning and Beijing

•    Lectures, excursions, tours, and special evening programs

•    Materials needed for service projects (construction tools and supplies, teaching/arts enrichment materials, etc.)

•    Bottled water at worksite

•    Taxes and service charges at restaurants; tips for guides and drivers

•    Transfers to/from all airports

 Items not included in the program cost:

•    Your travel from your home city to New York or Los Angeles for group roundtrip flight

•    Passport costs (if any)

•    Visa costs

•    Single occupancy accommodations (add $600 single room supplement)

•    Any meals on your own

•    Alcoholic beverages with meals

•    Laundry service, mini-bar, and other personal or incidental expenses

Scholarship funds….

The Yale Alumni Service Corps is able to provide scholarships depending on the availability of scholarship funds. These funds are donated by other travelers inspired by the program. Please refer to the program application for details about applying for scholarship.

We encourage those of you who can, to contribute to the Service Tour Scholarship Fund! 

Scholarship gifts are fully tax-deductible and enable talented alumni from diverse backgrounds to participate, enhancing the experience for everyone on the trip.