When traveling to Beijing, the first things on any foreigner’s itinerary are seeing the Great Wall, joining tours of famous sites such as the Temple of Heaven, getting some great deals at the Silk Market, and having their fair share of Peking duck. However, for who feel like doing some good for others while in town, there are plenty of resources and opportunities to reach out here in the city. As per most countries, China’s population must cope with issues such as poverty, mental illness, environmental disasters, and illiteracy. Luckily, there are many organizations that give the native population as well as expats a chance to help out.

Volunteer teaching is a major resource of aid to the Beijing community. Education is a valuable tool in helping advance the lives of individuals by enabling them to gain the means needed to provide for themselves. If you are an expat in Beijing, you can help provide a major service by offering to teach English as a second language. One NPO called Compassion for Migrant Children, which organizes social and educational programs for the children of migrant workers. For the estimated half a million migrant children living in Beijing, organizations like CMC provide an opportunity for them to receive suitable academic instruction and vocational training. Other organizations to volunteer at are the Lotus Culture Center and China Education Initiative, which help bring enrichment into the lives of underprivileged children.

This past weekend I had a personal experience volunteering at one of the Huiling Community Services facilities. Public Health is another major concern here in Beijing that needs as many helping hands as possible. The Huiling Center helps individuals with disabilities learn life skills as well as arts and crafts, music, and athletics. In order to further improve the quality of life for its members, Huiling offers them opportunities to make money by working with tour groups and making jewelry. My experience there was absolutely amazing.  My colleagues and I were able to meet and spend time with a handful of mentally disabled ‘trainees’ there. We sang songs, danced, and played games together. My favorite part was the teambuilding exercises. Afterward, we got the chance to purchase several pieces of the beautiful handmade jewelry that were made by some of the trainees, from which the proceeds go toward funding the organization.

Poverty and the environment are other causes in Beijing that need lots of attention and provide many volunteering prospects. Wokai provides financial aid to villagers living in rural China in order to support their entrepreneurial projects. Wokai depends almost entirely on volunteers to translate, plan events and provide marketing services in order to advance the organization’s ambitious efforts. Other great organizations include Planet Finance and Rotaract. The latter offers resources to expats interested in starting up clothing and food drives in their areas.  For environmentally focused volunteering, check out the Roots and Shoots Eco-English program, which brings foreign volunteers across Beijing to classrooms where they can learn about  how to improve the environment, be nature-friendly, and get involved in events. This is great way to contribute your own new ideas to the environmental movement.

With so many different causes and organizations across Beijing, feel free to do a little good work during your China travel by volunteering your time. I know my volunteer experience made a deep impression on me, as well as provided memories I will cherish forever.

Jack Li
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