A Year in China
After school I spent a year volunteering in China as a middle school English teacher with Project Trust. I lived with another volunteer in the far North-Western city of Karamay, in Xinjiang province.
I had to raise Â£5900 to cover the cost of the year overseas. Below are some of the things I did to raise the money - click on the headings to learn more.
Calum and I worked together on several Cake Sales at school. Going to a boys' school, cakes were highly popular with most of the student body, and we usually managed to sell out by the end of the day.
Particularly with his mum's baked delights, Calum and I gained a (good) reputation which made it increasingly easy to flog our wares - almost 10% of my total came from them!
With the school's help, Calum and I organised a Quiz Evening which raised nearly Â£400. Mr. Chambers helped to organise the event, and Dr. Jones both wrote the quiz and gave his time as quizmaster.
Though not the sell-out event we had been hoping for, it was a lot of fun to put on and raised our profile at school.
Around 40% of the money I raised came from Charitable Trusts. In October I worked my way through the Directory of Grant-Making Trusts to find those potentially willing to support my sort of project and wrote to many of them.
It was unpleasant and difficult writing to strangers to ask for money, but their responses were heartening and I am extremely grateful to those trusts which chose to support me.
I designed and made Christmas Cards which I then sold both to friends and at a local Church Christmas Market. In the end they made around Â£250 - more than I had expected - which was not bad for my first fundraising venture.
Many thanks to the Fosters, who commissioned the card featured in the photo.
With significant help from my mum and sister, we spent a couple of months collecting unwanted clothes from friends and neighbours, then hosted a "Clothes Exchange". People were invited to come over and made donations for whatever they wanted to have (tea and cakes were also served).
This was easily the single most lucrative event I organised, making more in a single afternoon than all of the Cake Sales and Quiz Evening combined!
Leaving the UK on August 13th, the group of 27 (to be spread across China) were given a few days to rest before the two-week induction in Beijing. We visited Tiananmen Sqaure, the Zoo and attended a couple of TESOL lectures, all while adapting to the time zone, food, country (and August heat!).
Mi Yun Summer Camp
For most of our two weeks we were on a summer camp in a rural area North of Beijing. The school campus was essentially fortified, so we didn't leave except for an organised day trip to a water village.
Teaching in pairs, we got to practice TESOL to classes of 20, planning lessons and getting to know each other at the same time.
My Year in Karamay
I lived in an apartment with Tom about 20 minutes from our school on foot. We lived next to Century Park and HanBo (a massive shopping mall), as well as a large outdoor market which was closed in the freezing Winter.
Number 7 Middle School
I loved my job! I taught each class in 8th Grade once a week and had complete freedom to cover anything. I realised quickly that I wasn't going to change their lives or transform their understanding of English. Instead I worked on spoken English (not covered on their curriculum) and making lessons fun to combat their punishing and exam-centric Education system.
Ultimately I didn't make anyone fluent, but I saw an improvement in the confidence of my students' English. They seemed to enjoy my classes and I always rewarded effort over results to create a fun and welcoming classroom environment. I was far from perfect as a teacher, but I'm happy with what I achieved!
The Oasis that is Karamay
Karamay is an exception in every way: bursting with plant life in a desert; rich in a generally poor province; and welcoming to foreigners in a relatively restricted area of China. Everything there is manmade, from the oil pools (a tourist attraction), to the river, even to the hills themselves. It is clean, safe and ripe with Western imports and luxuries.
We made a Christmas Video to send home, which I put on YouTube, but that spawned several other videos with musical accompaniment. I also started filming One Second Everyday, so I got Winter Travelling and the last six months in China.
You can watch them all below: