Our Service Learning partner was a kind lady called Grandma Li. She is 70 years old and spends her time helping out at a local Buddhist temple.
After listening to Grandma Li's stories, I learned that she is strong and highly values her faith. As soon as she wakes up, she leaves her home for the temple. There, she does her daily work, which includes shoveling ashes of burnt incense into buckets and tending the fire. During our conversations, I also noticed how she spoke with confidence and purpose, which I highly admired.
I also learned a lot about Xizhou's history. Buddhism is an integral aspect of Xizhou's culture, which has become a cultural work field over the years, like singing or dancing. It brings thousands together to pray and worship. I also learned about Xizhou's Buddhist education, with the Kunxing Buddha as the education minister.
Grandma Li also taught us about recent Chinese history in general. During the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, the education of millions of students came to a halt. In Grandma Li's case, her family was too poor to afford tuition. She had no choice but to drop out in the second grade.
Seeing Grandma Li and her husband watch our final product was worth all the effort and time we spent. When we came to the temple to pick her up, she was hesitant to leave. She told us there was work to do, but in the end, she agreed to come. When the video first started to play, her eyes became transfixed on the screen. "That's me!" she chuckled during the first scene. After the sharing, she stood up, shook our hands, and heartily thanked us. I could tell that she genuinely meant it. It was truly amazing knowing that the hours we spent working on out video - all the minute fixes, enduring through iMovie's lag, and praying that the video will export properly - was worth it. The Service Learning project is our chance to say 'thank you' to the village that hosted us for 28 days, and I'm glad we had this chance.
To future Microcampus students, remember to make connections from the beginning. It may seem awkward and uncomfortable at first, but will find people with incredible stories. This will come in handy during Service Learning, too. For my group, we ended up having to switch Service Learning partners four times due to complications on both sides. By making many connections, there will be many options and no stress about not having a partner. Finally, remember the purpose of Service Learning. Disagreements within the group may come up, but Service Learning is about saying 'thank you' to the village.