Henna Jurca
Henna Jurca
China 2011
Henna Jurca is a Senior at Belmont University in Nashville, TN with a major in Asian Studies and minor in Chinese. Henna will be volunteering and studying through the Keats School in Kunming, China. Read More About Henna →

Elderly Home and School for Autistic Children

After conversing with my Chinese teacher about my volunteer work, I have decided to help out both at the Elderly Home and the School for Autistic Children.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will go to the Elderly Home and every Tuesday and Thursday I will go to the School for Autistic Children.

After doing some research about autistic schools in the United States, I realize that I could potentially help out at the that school.  Many schools in the U.S. have a personal teacher for each autistic child.  Because each autistic child is different, therapy sessions and exercises must be different.

I just need to be firm with the owner of the school and tell him that I really cannot just sit there and talk to him for most of the time.  I need to do what I am there to do – help the children!  I think that if I sit in on as many one-on-one classes as possible, I could give my advice on their therapy exercises.  This is the one class that parents cannot be in, so I think that will be better.  I observed a one-on-one class on Friday with a boy named Ming.  He is eight years old but cannot speak at all.  Every exercise they did just did not seem very helpful until the teacher sang some songs.  I do not want to take over the class, but maybe give some suggestions and see if they will take it or not.  For Ming, since he seems to really love music, maybe they could include music in a lot of his therapy exercises. This may help him with his learning of every day activities.

One exercise I did not agree with. The teacher was holding the candle so close to his face...any regular person would be uncomfortable with this.

So I will continue at the Autistic School.  I will also be staying in contact with my friend Casey (she went on the Belmont Study Abroad trip to China last summer).  She wants to eventually work with autistic children so I will definitely be asking her for some advice. 

But today is Monday and it was my first day at the Elderly Home.  Some of workers and elderly can speak Mandarin, but most of them speak the Kunming dialect (which I cannot understand at all).  It does not matter, though...because help and company is all the same. 

I learned that this elderly home only has physically and mentally disabled elderly people.  Some of them have already told me things that do not make any sense, but I will just always smile and act like I am interested.  There are a few that can feed themselves but many cannot do every day activities.  Today I helped feed the elderly and took some of them for a walk in their wheelchair.  They were so happy that I was there and are constantly smiling at me!  I am so glad that I can give them happiness.  One old man I took for a walk was SO proud to have me walking him!  He waved to everyone and pointed at me when we passed by.

The way to the Elderly home

One side of the Elderly Home

Another side of the Elderly Home

Helping the elderly eat

Wang 爷爷 - 75 years old - I took him and others on a walk around the elderly home

It is really sad because no one wants to help these elderly people or give them company.  The people running the place even asked me why I was coming there to help, told me it was a waste of my time and I should go somewhere else.  I told them that I really wanted to help and also explained that I have a scholarship.  Next they told me I could just come there, take pictures and pretend that I have been volunteering there. It is so bizarre!!!  It is understandable though because in China there are not many people who volunteer.  I suspect that I am the first volunteer this elderly home has ever seen!  They do not understanding the concept of giving without getting anything in return.  They are always just thinking that there must be some hidden reason why I would do this.  To me, I get the joy of giving these elderly people company, helping them, and seeing them happy.  So I am getting something in return.  The Chinese community just does not understand such things.  I did not even fully realize this until I began volunteering in China.  It is something that cannot be taken personally.

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