I'm coming tomorrow and I am excited and nervous. Excited because there is so much to do and see, nervous because my chinese isn't THAT good, and because I'm scared I won't get to do everything that I want to.
While I live there, I will be staying at a volunteer flat and volunteering every weekday at CereCare, a center for children with cerebral palsy. It is a wonderful organization from what I have read on their website and from previous volunteers there. I have an older brother who is mentally disabled, yet I have never learned a whole lot about different disabilities. I wonder what the general public in Shanghai and China feels about the disabled and how they accommodate them. I expect to be humbled by the children I spend time with and to learn a lot about their lives from them. Specifically, I think I will be helping one child or a group of children with daily activities, from snacks, exercising, learning, to singing. I hope to get to know at least one child really really well, because quality over quantity, right?
In the process of helping the children perform different tasks, I think I will learn to appreciate my body and come to realize that I take my body for granted. Most of the time will probably be spent at the center, but since I will be there for 8 weeks, I will probably attend some field trips with the children, so I wonder what life is like for them outside of the center. Would people stare? How would non-disabled children react? Would it hurt me to see judgmental looks and insensitive looks and wide-eyed looks? How might the children's experiences differ in Shanghai as opposed to outside of a city? Does the city offer accommodations for people who are disabled? I'm sure living in Shanghai is doable for people without disabilities, but could the city move on and leave people behind?
Besides my relationship with the children, I also hope to establish friendships with my co-workers at CereCare and with other volunteers whom I may live with. I wonder how other workers at CereCare come to work there. I think I read somewhere that some of the children who were treated there later come back to work there. I wonder what their personal lives are like outside of the center and how they reconcile the different parts of their lives. Do they know someone outside of CereCare who is disabled? What do people think of their job?
Lastly, I hope to learn more about the structure of the center and how it relates to the bigger network of organizations for disabled children. I believe CereCare is probably the only specialized center for children with cerebral palsy in Shanghai. I wonder if other cities have similar institutions and if they work together. Could children in Shanghai possibly meet other children with cerebral palsy? Do they get to meet adults with cerebral palsy and interact with them? Is the center everything it is made out to be? Are there any flaws or disadvantages or regrets? Nothing is perfect, so I hope to bring critical and observant eyes.
To contact me while I am abroad at Shanghai until the end of July, feel free to email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and I believe I should find a way to get onto Facebook as well.