16 Dec, 2016
10 : 00
This past week, students from across the Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Primary School participated in a week-long charity- and fundraising-based unit, culminating in a sponsored Jog-a-thon. In the process of raising a staggering 70,000 RMB for the local Beijing charity Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village, students learned the importance of charity and empathy as well as how to actively promote and conduct fundraising efforts in their immediate community.
Head organizers Tom McCabe and Rachael Elvin spoke with us about the incredible outpouring of enthusiasm from students and generosity from the wider YCIS Beijing community in response to this charity initiative, plus the important role that these character traits play in a child’s development.
Please introduce the mission of Humanities Week.
With Christmas time approaching, and thinking about how a lot of our children come from loved families, we wanted to get our children thinking about other people. We chose charity as a means to have children start thinking beyond themselves.
“Thinking beyond Oneself” became the motto, with all activities designed around that to encourage the students to stretch their perceptions and understanding of empathy, generosity, and all the character traits that we seek to instill here at the school.
Which charity did the event support?
The Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is an orphanage compound located between Beijing and Tianjin in the countryside. It was founded by Pam and Tim Baker, who had two daughters at YCIS Beijing. The organization helps to bring kids in from different parts of China who are physically or developmentally disabled to provide a loving and supporting environment and to give them a chance to find a “forever home.”
What activities did students participate in during the week?
The activities varied from year to year based on the age of the students, but as an example, Years 3 and 4 students started off by learning a lot about the charity and how to promote it, doing poster-work and other similar activities. We also had them engage in a two-part process of self-reflection. First, they thought about themselves, asking themselves the questions: what am I thankful for? What do I have in my life that is important to me? Once they had the answers to those questions, they practiced reflection by putting themselves in the shoes of the kids for whom they were raising money. We wanted them to understand what things they were thankful for that these kids didn’t have access to.
Please introduce the Jog-a-thon. What did students do in advance of the event to raise money?
The Jog-a-thon is an athletic event set up in our gymnasium in which kids run laps to raise money for charity. All the money is raised through sponsorships prior to the event, with students going out into their communities to raise money. It was exciting to see how much the kids had learned about the charity and the group.
We actually received emails from parents from across Primary School who were so pleased that their children were actually participating in an activity; they were actually out doing something rather than just collecting money to buy cakes for a bake sale or something. This style of active fundraising forced children to learn about the charity. They had to explain what the money was for, why it was an important cause, etc. This kind of experience is incredible valuable as it teaches them the value of earning that money they then donated, giving them a real sense of accomplishment in the end.
Overall, students amazed us with their proactivity. Not only were they out asking teachers and friends, they went out and asked everyone outside of school too, including family friends and even friends and organizers of clubs and activities they participate in. They did a truly fantastic job.
The Jog-a-thon itself was a very fun event. Kids ran their hearts out and had a great time! It was a really positive way to finish up the week.
How has this event positively impacted the charity?
One of the pressing needs for the charity was that they were still looking for a way to pay their heating bill for the winter. The 70,000 RMB raised during the event will go a long way towards helping to pay that.
Since the event began, some parents have even gone themselves to visit the charity and volunteer their time with the children. These were totally unrelated to our own activities, so the event has been great publicity for the charity overall as well.
What do you hope the children learned from this experience?
I think they’ve learned to be less self-centered. Even as adults, we have a tendency to only think about our own problems and what’s going on in our own lives. Through this activity, our kids have become a lot kinder and more caring and considerate of each other. That kindness, warmth, care, and feeling has been tangible even on campus; I’ve heard a lot more manners in recent days than before! I think the shock that came for them when they realized some kids don’t have the privilege of having moms and dads to take care of them really made them much more thankful for their own situations and what their family does for them.
Why is it important for kids to be exposed to charity and fundraising events at a young age?
If children are exposed to charitable events and these ideas of empathy early in their lives, it has a tendency to last. They develop these skills that then become habits. Our students will remember this experience of knocking on doors to fundraise, plus, more importantly, that same sense of accomplishment and warm feeling towards helping others. Developing these life values at that young age goes a long way into making them into the global citizens that YCIS Beijing strives to create.