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Volunteering is hardly a new thing for college students. But how about volunteering in Africa?
Of course this conjures up stereotypes such as shabby accommodation, unmade roads, malaria and huge expense.
With young Chinese’s horizons expanding thanks to the country’s deepening integration with the international community, volunteer work in Africa is gaining momentum.
According to Guangzhou Association of Youth Volunteers, during a recruitment drive in March more than 650 students applied for 18 volunteer jobs in the Republic of Seychelles in Africa.
“The number of college students applying to do volunteer work in Africa has increased over the years,” said Yang Guang, a staff member of the Wuhan Youth League Committee. For Chinese volunteers their African experience can be rewarding.
Pan Di, a 25-year-old from Tianjin Foreign Studies University, went to Kenya two years ago as a volunteer English teacher in a ghetto in Nairobi, the capital.
It was a community of half a million poverty-stricken people. Pan was robbed upon her arrival. Verbal abuse to foreigners was not unusual. Living conditions were even worse than she imagined. Pan admitted she felt frustrated and disappointed.
“But my experiences there taught me to remain calm and collected in the face of adversity or even mistreatment. Now I’m more open-minded,” said Pan.
Li Chen, a Shandong University graduate, found his experience of volunteer work in Africa more substantial.
He did volunteer work as a publicist for AIDS/HIV in Tanzania last year. Li, 23, made new friends from Canada and the US. They are veteran volunteers who travel around the world working with international organizations and groups.
One of them recommended Li to a Guangzhou-based NGO as an intern and Li was later offered a full-time job there.
“International organizations and NGOs of every kind have a presence in Africa. It is the ideal place to form a network that would help your career in a related field,” said Li.
Zhang Qi, head of Sunshine Volunteer Group, based in Beijing, agrees that volunteering in Africa can be rewarding.
He encourages more students to think out of box and to broaden their horizons in order to cope with China’s international role.
“Many college students are either too busy studying or too confined to campus life to explore the world,” said Zhang.
“Travel abroad as a volunteer is one of the best ways to open one’s eyes.”