Have you achieved any progress in the goals you set at the beginning of your internship? Why or why not? Have any of your goals changed? How or why?
How has this internship challenged your beliefs about poverty, justice, and human capabilities?
I think my biggest struggle is balancing my internship with my personal life. At my flat there are many other volunteers who volunteer at other places in Shanghai and they are other young people from all over the world. As such, social interactions are constant and hectic, especially since volunteers come and go over time. I really enjoy getting to know so many people but it is also very time-consuming, which eats away at the time I would otherwise spend on reflecting on my experiences and blogging (hence my late posts on owlspace). Being tired definitely makes me appreciate the staff at the center more, since they work for longer hours and are responsible for the children pretty much all year-round. I am humbled every time they thank me for helping them translate their website. True, I am offering a language skill that they very much needed, but my work is temporary and theirs is more permanent. They are the ones who get down and dirty to take care of the children, nurture them, encourage them, play with them, feed them, teach them, and help them go to the bathroom. To me, their work is very remarkable.
I do not have any trouble in the internship, and I really enjoy growing my interpersonal skills. I feel grateful for being able to have honest and mundane conversations with the older workers about their lives and their work. I think I am definitely learning a lot about professional and mature social interactions and etiquette.
One of my goals is to get to know my class of children really well, and I am happy to say that I did make good progress and can make conversation with all of them now. I know their personalities as well as physical conditions a lot better than when I first began so I can interact with them better and help assist them in class better. Another one of my goals is to start my own project/thing. In the beginning I felt that in their neatly structured daily schedule, there was no time for me to do anything with the kids except help out in class. That goal has since been changed to adapt to the needs at the center. I like spending time with the kids one-on-one so I try to maximize that, whether it is helping one child walk up and down the stairs, or playing with them during their afternoon nap time. Some of the sick children have been isolated until they are not contagious, and I really enjoy spending quality time with them as well. I did not start my own thing, but I have found more ways that I can be useful when not in a classroom. Moreover, helping the center translate their entire website was a project that I am very proud of accomplishing. I feel that even though in the classroom I am not a big help, I can be a big help in other ways.
This internship has expanded my understanding of and experience with poverty. Every now and then on the busy streets of Shanghai I would see beggars who are homeless and disabled, wondering if the government has any provisions for them and how my donation or lack thereof would affect them. Poverty is being desperate and unseen. Desperate as old women keep small children awake in the middle of the night so that they can evoke sympathy from foreigners who are outside of night clubs and bars to buy flowers and give them money. Unseen as a disabled man is lying on a portable bed sleeping in the middle of the day and everyone hustles around him to get to work and school and the bus and the metro. Poverty is about being forgotten. There is no space in my brain to dwell on the poor and the homeless when I am hurrying to work, and then on the bus to work I am mindlessly watching TV on the digital screens and the weather is hot and everyone with or without money wants to shop for this look that fad, that outfit, this sale. In Shanghai there are mainly two kinds of people – people who own land here and do not need a job and can afford shopping international luxury brands in luxury cars and luxury shopping malls, and people who are from elsewhere in China working in the luxury shops and cafes and restaurants and spas, living in the insanely expensive houses/flats owned by the wealthy retired landowners. This internship showed me what it looks like when an economy is moving and growing so fast, all on the backs of those who have very little.