Volunteering in Nanjing: The How, Where and Why

Volunteering in Nanjing: The How, Where and Why
By Harriet Petty , eChinacities.com

Occasionally (or perhaps frequently for some lucky souls), Nanjing expats and locals alike find themselves with a little free time and an appetite for new experiences or adventure. Enter the notion of volunteering in Nanjing. Perhaps as a result of sparse work or study schedules, or perhaps in despair at the monotony of a stagnant social calendar, many people are looking for opportunities outside of the weekly drinking sessions and 1912's noisy nightlife for something new to do. Some find themselves struggling to meet like-minded expats, while some may be looking for a chance to find the heart of this modern city. What better way to get more involved in the local community, better understand Chinese culture, meet a host of new and diverse friends, and experience things you never thought possible, than to do some volunteering? Not to mention the undeniable feel-good factor and sneaky beefing up of your CV!

What's more, it's not limited to the more obvious route of teaching English for free to underprivileged kids. There are plenty of opportunities out there that offer genuine openings into the world of NGO and not-for-profit work in China. What follows is a rundown of the active and ongoing projects in Nanjing, some tips on how to become involved and what to expect from volunteering your time. Whether you're looking for one-off events, or you can spare a few hours per week or month, you can find it in Nanjing. So, what are you waiting for? Read on, find something that interests you, and next weekend, instead of slouching in Skyways or navigating the mayhem of Fuzi Miao, you could be out planting trees at Maoshan, teaching English to kids in a migrant workers school, or organising events for the next big Nanjing fundraiser...

1) Wokai 我开
Wokai (我开) is a not-for-profit organisation, with headquarters in the US and Beijing. The Nanjing chapter consists of a small group of volunteers, organising fundraising events, and raising awareness of the wider work that Wokai undertakes. Founded in 2007, Wokai has geographical influence stretching much farther than Nanjing, creating opportunities for people living in rural areas in China to pull themselves out of poverty through micro finance methods. Wokai is primarily involved with fundraising and bridging the gap between philanthropic individuals and people living in poor communities of rural China, arranging loans for starting or developing business'. The Nanjing chapter is largely concerned with fundraising and increasing awareness of the potential of micro finance to improve China's struggling poorer communities. Past events in Nanjing have included picnics, film screenings and live music events and the team welcome new ideas for future events and fundraisers. Join the team of Wokai volunteers and perhaps you'll discover latent PR or event organisation skills, or find yourself intimately involved with this developing not-for-profit a few months down the line, or perhaps you'll just meet some great new friends. For more information and specifics go to http://en.wokai.org/ (Nanjing Chapter page at http://en.wokai.org/team/34).

2) Hopeful Hearts
Nanjing's Hopeful Hearts charity organises fundraisers and manages donations to fund life-saving operations for children with heart defects. Based primarily in Nanjing, the charity is run by local and expat women, organising fundraising events such as auctions, performances and dinners. Volunteers are always welcome, to help with fundraising, baking, admin tasks or participating in hospital or local orphanage visits. To get in touch or find out more, visit the Hopeful Hearts website www.hopefulhearts.info or send an email expressing an interest to hopefulhearts10@yahoo.com. The group meets one Wednesday morning every month.

3) YMCA and YWCA
The YMCA and YWCA, both internationally renowned Christian social organisations, have their Nanjing base on Zhongshan Lu. Working largely with young people, local families, women and children, the Nanjing group provides activities and assistance relating to cultural education, career training, social events, counselling services and education. Recently, English teaching programmes for underprivileged kids have been organised through the YMCA and YWCA, and the organisation is keen to create and organise new programmes with interested volunteers, developing new means of community outreach in Nanjing. Whether you're keen to share your linguistic abilities, or have some fresh ideas for outreach programmes, the YMCA and YWCA would be happy to hear from you. To get in touch, visit the website http://www.njymca-ywca.org/eindex.html or contact them directly via email at njymca@hotmail.com or call 025 8330 7434.

4) Ping An A Fu Animal Shelter
If you're in the mood for some animal affection, make your way to the Ping An A Fu Stray Animal Shelter (平安阿福流浪动物救助会). As one of the few organisations caring for the numerous stray, often decrepit cats and dogs rehoused in the shelter from the streets of Nanjing, this is a great place to go if you're an animal lover. While the shelter welcomes donations, they are more interested in fostering relationships with people who want to be actively involved with the care of the animals, whether it be bringing food, playing with the pets, or helping with the cleaning. Email pinganafu@126.com for more info.

5) Organise something on your own terms
While there are plenty of opportunities out there for volunteering in Nanjing, there's nothing to stop you from organising something on your own terms. Fancy teaching English to students who otherwise wouldn't have access to a native English speaker? Most schools in Nanjing, particularly those that can't afford the luxury of a foreign teacher, would be more than happy to invite you in once a week. Fancy doing something a bit crazy in the name of raising funds for charity? Get a few friends together and organise a fundraising event. You'll get to choose the charity that benefits from your endeavours, and have complete control over the event itself. Follow in the footsteps of the 11 Nanjing foreigners who on the 11th of November 2011 delivered a performance of Romeo and Juliet on the streets of Nanjing, to the delight of the passing crowds, raising 5000RMB for a local cause. Perhaps, like them, you'll also make your debut appearance on Chinese TV for your efforts! Alternatively, keep your eyes peeled for interesting one-off volunteering opportunities in Nanjing, like the recent tree-planting expedition to Jurong's Maoshan organised by the 2014 Youth Olympic Games Committee. 

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Keywords: Volunteering in Nanjing Wokai Nanjing chapter where to volunteer Nanjing volunteer projects Nanjing NGOs Nanjing


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