“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Another year is closing, and I reflected on my professional life and the progress that was accomplished in 2019. It seems to me no matter the task commitment and longevity are keys and ideals that always uplift me. One such thought is the volunteer program, REACH, which I coordinate along with two colleagues Wendy Weng and Shelley Xiong. REACH is a program in its seventh year gives teachers and staff from our EF campuses here in Shenzhen opportunities to serve our community.
Through REACH, twice a month we coordinate teachers and staff to go to three schools in our community to work with their students with disabilities. At our core, we want to brighten the day of a child that may not have the same opportunities as other children. Showing care is so powerful and coupling this with consistently being there for these children has immeasurable positive impact on the students, their families and the staff of the schools we serve. Our mission statement says it best:
The mission of EF Reach is to provide quality educational and social opportunities to children whose access is limited due to developmental, financial, or familial issues. A subsequent goal is to consistently engage EF staff in community initiatives to increase their educational experiences and ultimately their quality of teaching and support.
I believe in order to have a compassionate out-look, we need to model compassion in our own behaviors being examples to our students and to each other. When we go to these schools and facilitate sessions, I see students open up, participate, and smile – I know the positivity is resonating! I'm grateful that I have had this amazing shared experience with so many EFers over the years.
The remarkable and beautiful fact is that this began and remains a successful grassroots effort. Without a doubt, my gratitude goes out to all the volunteers, the teachers and staff that have participated in Reach activities. In 2019, 250 volunteers gave nearly 1000 hours of volunteer service to our community through our REACH program! With everyone's help and contributions (from DoS, Center Managers, teachers and staff, even parents), this year's Christmas Toy Drive was again an astounding success! We were able give every student we teach at the three participating schools a gift and a special custom made scarf! We were also able to fulfill each school's wish-list of school supplies and teaching materials!
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight special people of 2019 that have kept REACH vibrant and relevant!
High fives to SZ11's Ratanang Moraladi! Ratanang has the distinction volunteering the most times this year! She has an amazing energy which is only minimally eclipsed by her amazing smile! She goes to sessions, no matter how far away they are or early, and gives the children a real sense of caring and presence. I've had the honor of partnering with her on sessions and they have always been reflective, productive and fun!
Kudos to SZ15's incredible DoS Nick Nowak! You always come through with flying colors and I appreciate your enthusiasm, leadership, and advocacy for Reach! Every month, I can count on Nick to send me a message saying, “count me in!”. Then he rounds up teachers from his school they give their best at our Reach schools!
Thank you SZ8 CD Wendy Weng! Wendy is an amazing partner and even though she has a full work schedule and will soon be a mom, she still makes time to partner with me making sure things get done! Thank you for helping steer the ship!
Much appreciation goes out to SZ4's Shelley Xiong for doing much of the administrative work to ensure proper communication between schools and volunteers! She is also responsible for maintaining the monthly calendar and creating valuable organizational tools for Reach! Further, she leads sessions and co-coordinates the Hearing Program for Shenzhen! Shelly is the engine that keeps Reach chugging along!
Life is more than work, though it is great when work is genuinely the platform that allows you to pursue your passion, effectively making work not feel like work at all. My work with EF in China is helping me serve a purpose, and personally, that is very satisfying. I am looking forward to 2020 to continue with my commitments, establish more consistency, improve in all aspects personally and professionally, and seek more clarity on what is important and meaningful!