Our Service Learning partner was Mrs. Yang. Her full name is Yang Ru Ying and she is 83 years old. She makes and sells shoe pads. During our conversations with Mrs. Yang, we learned that she has lived through the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. She has 6 children, three boys and three girls, all of which are working in Kunming right now. She remembers the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution as terrible times. Her greatest dream is for her kids to live a happy life, better than what she experience during her youth.
The Service Learning Project also allowed us to gain a better insight into Xizhou's history and the 20th Century Chinese history. We learned that when Mrs. Yang was a child (around 1940) many children did not receive any education and had to learn a trade at a very young age to support their family. Mrs. Yang also explained to us that during the Great Leap Forward, many families did not have enough food to eat and thousands of people starved. We learned that although the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolutions were all for a good intention to reform China for the better, its effects were not always positive and many people suffered because of it. Nevertheless, the lives of people greatly improved after the 改革开放 (the reform and open policy) was enacted in 1978.
It was a truly amazing experience to watch our partner watch the video we made of her during the service learning sharing. Mrs. Yang did not say much when the short film was being played; she merely smiled. It was not just any smile; it was smile of pure happiness. That one smile was all we needed to know. All the time and effort spent making the short film in exchange for one smile from Mrs. Yang. It was worth it. At that moment we forgot all the challenges and difficulties we faced creating the short film. If Mrs. Yang was happy, so were we.
After the sharing she invited us to her home. She kept of thanking us and telling us that we were "很棒“ (great). When we sat down, she started explaining to us that young people in village nowadays don't show any respect for elders. They try to trick and deceive elders, believing that they are old and worthless. Mrs. Yang very grateful that we were polite and respected her. This really made me think. There must be other elders in the village feeling just like Mrs. Yang, old people that have been forgotten by the society that deserve more respect and care than they get. Servicing Learning is a great project and is definitely needs to continue. It needs to continue not just to record life stories of elders around the village, but to also give the respect and care they need.
Some recommendations for future Microcampus students involved in the Service Learning Project:
1. Start early: Find a partner as soon as you can. You only get a limited time to do actual filming for the materials you need to create the final video. Don't waste the designated time for filming as time used searching for a service learning partner.
2. You can never have too much video footage: Get as many videos of your service learning partner as you can. Whether is be different angles of the same question or footage of him or her doing their job, you will at some point during the process of creating the final movie wish you had more clips of your partner.
3. Use a tripod: Tripods play such an important part to ensure your final product is effective. Use a tripod to stabilize your camera to avoid shaky camera angles. A shaky camera angle distracts everyone from focusing on the message you are trying to say and makes everyone in the audience feel dizzy. Use a tripod.