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2008 Asia US Service and Learning program¡ªby Joe Chen Grade 2006
From: Admin    Updated time: 2008-10-27    Hits: 2379
My Incredible Experience in U.S.A.

------Service increases the understanding between you and me

Joe Chen, Grade ¡¯06
I use ¡°incredible¡± to describe this trip to the U.S., because it is
Challenging----The concept ¡°Service¡± is new to me, and I have learnt what I think should take me one year to learn in one month. In addition, I had to communicate with native speakers and other participants from different areas in English all the time.

Fruitful---------- Though it is challenging, it is worthy. I have learnt what I think takes me a year to learn only in one month.

Unforgettable--This is the farthest trip that I have ever had. In addition, I have visited many beautiful places in Oregon and California.
In my opinion, AUSL program focuses on these two words ---¡°Service¡± and ¡°Understanding¡±.
What can we decrease the distance between us?                 --- ¡°Understanding"
How can we increase the understanding between us?          --- ¡°Through Service¡±
Volunteer in Asia (VIA), for 45 years now has the mission of increasing understanding between US andAsia.  During the 1960's when VIA first started, it seemed that people from the East (China, Korea, Vietnam, South-east Asia, Japan) and the West (US/Europe) suffered from major problems withcommunication and understanding. For example, so many immigrants like the first generation of Japanese didn¡¯t know English, so they had difficulties in applying for Health Insurance even though they werequalified. Then VIA started to do something to create more understanding between these countries andAUSL program is exactly what can increase the understanding through learning about the people and culture there (cross-cultural exchange). 
What I have heard most throughout the whole program is ¡°Service¡±.
What is service?
There are many different definitions. Some people say service is what you do not for yourself, not for money, but for others. Others say service is to make good use of the rest resources to help people in need. As for me, I agree with that. And I also think that service is what every single man can provide. Either small things or great deeds definitely make sense. Sometimes, the simplest idea can make the biggest difference.
I have stayed in the U.S. for more than one month, from August 3, 2008 to September 5, 2008. Totally, I joined two programs there. The first one is Asia-US Service Learning program, from August 3 to August 27. The other one is a post program about visiting different organizations about how to serve. Here are more details:
Time Period
Activity Location
What I did is
Asia-US Service Learning program
Stanford University
Studying the big issues that both USand China have, including Health CareSystem, Underserved, Elderly HIV/AIDS, Physical and Mental Disabilities.
San Francisco
Visiting different organizations concerning how to serve people in need.
Reflecting back the whole program, discussing what we¡¯ve got from it.
  26/8 Evening
Clarion Hotel
Celebrating the final party and granting certificates to the participants.
Post program
San Francisco
Visiting organizations and participating in some lectures.
Los Angeles
Having fun in Disneyland.
Eugene, Oregon andBerkeley California
Visiting Mobility International USA andCenter for Independent Living.
The last task
Sleeping on the plane that flying to Beijing, China.

During the weeks in Stanford campus, every day we had morning meeting at 8am, and then we attended the discussion sections from 9am to 11am. The discussion sections are about the major issues, including HeathCare System, Underserved, Elderly, HIV/AIDS, and Disabilities. For the afternoons, we had different activities every day. For example, we visited Opportunity Center which provides houses and meals for the homeless people. Besides, we shared our researches on the issues that we mentioned before, and we accomplished the researches before we went to the U.S. What¡¯s more, we went to hike once and saw the ¡°Dish¡± behind the Stanford campus

After that, we moved to the great city---San Francisco. 

In these days, I visited and volunteered in many places, such as Glide Memorial Church, National AIDS Memorial Grove and St. Anthony Free Medical Clinic, Lytton Garden, Kimochi Home, Camp Costanoan, Creativity explored, AXIS Dance Company, etc. Here are some examples:
As you can see from the photo, we went to National AIDS Memorial Grove where we had our shoes and clothes dirty. There were two projects, one was to move the soil up to the hills, and the other was to dig the soil out and then planted some flowers in it. Totally, there were 67 volunteers on that day and we were divided into two groups to do the work. Luckily some of us finished the work easier, so that we could join the other project as well. What made me happy was that I made a friend whose name was Joe too. He had been volunteering there for about six or seven years, andhe loved this voluntary work which took us into believing the tiring job really made sense and also made a difference to the society. At the same time when we beautified the Grove, we provided people the quiet andholy place for them to remember those people who they loved or people who died of AIDS. These could remind us of how HIV/AIDS affected people physicallyand mentally, even destroy their whole lives.

 And here in this photo, we volunteered in St. Anthony¡¯s kitchen, serving hot meals to homeless people.They served around 2000 meals per day, so we were all very busy during those three hours. But we felt quite happy and excited about serving these people, because we really did something that could benefit people immediately. Besides, it made us feel like every meal, delicious or not, was valuable to each of us. It did make sense if you eat all the food in your plate, instead of throwing them into the trash. Even more, these people that I saw on that day were so impressive. They always remained in my mind andstirred my brain to think about what I can do for others or my community as well.

The two days (August 10 and August 11) in Camp Costanoan were my most unforgettable time! Camp Costanoan is a summer camp for children with mental disabilities. They have many activities like swimming, basketball, performing art, creativity drawing and so on. I learnt many amazing things from every single thing in this camp, such as the campers, the counselors, the fashion show, the camp songs, etc.

Before I went there, I¡¯d never seen so many people with different types of mental disabilities getting together, and what made me shocked was that they all felt happy and excited to be there, to see so many friends, to enjoy all the interesting activities, to be cared by all the warm-hearted people. All the people there love this camp more than I can describe. But we can understand that when you see the counselor who has joined the camp for 45 years. 
Those campers were very young, aging from 5 to 15. Some were so active that they ran everywhere without any stop until lunch or dinner time. Some were extremely quiet, only sitting still at one place. When people talked to them, they just gave you no response. Obviously, we could see how difficult it was for the staff to take care of them. For us, we just arrived thereand really felt overwhelmed at the time, because those kids were acting so strangely and we completely had no idea about how to interact with them. But the counselors just made an excellent example for us. They were especially patient. When the kid ran around all the time, they also ran and always followed them. When they sat still on the chair for the whole morning, then they accompanied with them for the whole morning as well. When they spent more than one hour eating lunch, definitely they were all the time feeding them carefully. Besides, the counselors were very energetic and hard-working. Most of them had been spending at least nine weeks working in the camp to prepare for the camp activities, only one day off each week. I saw how happy they were when they saw the kids reached safely. And they sang many enthusiastic camp songs just to entertain the kids. What¡¯s more, they were considerate and kind-hearted. They gave the kids a hug every time when they saw them. They kissed them before they went to bed. They did all of these things for those kids, only for those kids, hoping they would have a wonderful time here. (Continue)

For those kids, I did not realize that they all loved being here until my second day here. I started to talk a lot withthem, about everything. Sometimes the topics would be very strange or stupid. But that did not matter at all, because they just wanted you to talk with them, to hug them, to show your love to them, so that they would notfeel lonely. To my surprise, they were very friendly to all of us. Everyone would be hugged for at least fifty times per day. During the camp, the kids had learnt many things like daily skills, social skills. No doubt they wouldbecome more and more independent in their lives.
Absolutely, it is really hard for people who never see this to believe all the things there. For these things are rareand unbelievable, I could not imagine how great it would be when these special campers live with those excellent counselors, even though I had been living with my classmates (they all have physical disabilities) for two years. Until I experienced all of these, I came to realize how this camp benefits the campers, as well as the volunteers. We learn from each other, we show our passion and love, we also create a great chance for all the people here to make a change and make a difference to the society.
These two days mean a lot to me. My adventure here told me that just doing something very simple can also make a huge difference, as long as I put it into effect. And I will always keep this faith!
 1. The differences show the way to solve problems
Throughout the program, we have learnt the main problems existing in both the U.S. and China by having classes, discussing and volunteering. Thanks to the experiential learning, I find the differences between the U.S. and China concerning especially the issue---disability. In America, the public facilities are so accessible to people withdisabilities. They can get on the bus with camps themselves. People with wheelchairs can use the publicrestrooms easily. People with visual impairment can cross the street themselves by using the bell hung on the post by the roadside. In California, Fremont Bart Station is building a new one which will be more accessible to peoplewith all kinds of disabilities. And the elevators will have two ways to go in and out, so that people withwheelchairs do not have to go out of the elevator backward.  
All of these are just like a model for us to study, and to imitate. I am always trying to tell people about this, hoping that we can come together and make this model happen in Guangzhou, China.

What moved me most is the way that the directors and coordinators devoted themselves into the program. Looking at the paper files, photos, videos, shirts, cards¡­ You will understand how they treated people whom they met for first time, and then tried their utmost to help the participants to get through all kinds of difficulties. Devoting what they have without expecting any awards did decrease our distance. Soon after, we became very close friends, the relationship between us is better than brothers and sisters.
After I came back, I am trying to be like them, be nice to anyone that I meet, use what I have to help people in need. No matter how the result will be, I believe that devoting makes us closer!
Before I went to America, I completely don¡¯t know how a trip to the U.S. changes one person. It is impossible for me to predict. But now I know that clearly, at least for me. I become more open-minded. I learn to treat people friendly, at least do not hurt them. Life can be as happy and easy as some hippies, and life can be as busy andcrazy as some Americans. It all depends on how you think of the life and what you want from the life. The program and the people that I met had me think about it. This trip is unbelievable, unforgettable and valuable. Therefore, thank you my school---GETCH and VIA! It was you who gave me the chance, or I wouldn¡¯t haveseen and learnt so many things. Thank you all my sponsors! Without your great support, I could not go to America so smoothly. Thank you my dear directors and all the coordinators! Without all your devotion, I wouldn¡¯thave gained so much knowledge. Thank you all the participants! Without your accompanying, my days wouldn¡¯thave been so fun. Thank you Anjali and Ben so much! I experienced more than anyone expected, and I had an incredible time with both of you! Thank you all again!
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