N his native Tianjin, China, volunteering was foreign to Cuixi Xi. It’s only in New Zealand that the 29 year old language student has had time to experience what he describes as little-known concept in his homeland. Xi is studying English at the Making Futures Happen international institute and spent a day spreading bark at Wellington zoo with his class. The project was sponsored by the Nikau Foundation on behalf of the Richard and Doreen Evans fund and organised through Volunteer Wellington.
“It’s the first time I’ve volunteered and the first time for many of the students here so it’s a special experience,” grins Xi, “Tianjin has about 10 million people and I think society is different there; I was so busy working all the time.”
He plans to work in New Zealand and volunteer again and notes the benefits to both the volunteers and the people they lend a hand to.
“It’s beneficial for everyone. We help others but also learn labour skills at the same time,” Xi explains, before politely excusing himself to continue helping his classmates, all enthusiastically ferrying buckets of bark, “They need me!” he smiles, and disappears.
Xi’s teacher, Simon Neale, says he was ecstatic that his class was keen to get involved.
“The students tend to come from wealthy families so I wondered if they’d be keen on the concept, but they were really happy to be doing something both worthwhile and interesting. I can see the want to help others is universal,” says Neale.
He has been teaching for over ten years and is always looking for new ways to help his students learn.
“I want to harness their skills in a new environment. Some can cook and others are good with children. It’s good for them to practice English while using their skills. Volunteering gets them in that new setting,” Neale explains.
Learning a language is so much more than just classroom study, he says.
“Students can find English language knowledge online. We have to offer something that can engage them and show them that what they learn in class resonates in the outside world. So we find an activity that matches,” says Neale.
He says his class will do more volunteer work in the future.
Eager volunteers can search a database of voluntary roles at www.volunteerwellington.org.nz.