My service learning partner was Mr. Du. He is 74 and the owner of a hotel next to Yangzhuoran. You can either watch our video above or by clicking here.
I learned a great deal about how hard Mr. Du had to work to get where he is now. Mr. Du not only talked to us about his favorite color, which is sky blue; but also how he grew up a family struggling with financial issues and how had to start working as a woodcarver when he was 16 to have enough money to buy food. When he was growing up, there was never a steady income and he was always hungry. He told us that he mostly remembers working to make money and only being happy when there was enough food to eat.
These conversations taught me how difficult the conditions were in Xizhou when Mr. Du was growing up. He told us that multiple families lived in a house with him. The conversations my group had with Mr. Du really helped me to connect the history lessons I have had about China in that time period with real life and the stories of a person who lived through that time period.
These conversations taught me a great deal of information concerning 20th Century China. I learned that most people shared a house with multiple other families. Mr. Du also taught me the struggle of making a steady income during that time period.
Sharing our video with Mr. Du was truly a unique experience that I will never forget. Before the sharing, I was not too scared about seeing Mr. Du's reaction; however, when I sat up front and the video started playing I became very stressed. We had spent so long working on the video that I do not think I would be able to bear it if Mr. Du did not like the video. It was very important to me that Mr. Du and the rest of the audience appreciate this movie that we had made. I really wanted this video to be able to thank him for his kindness and willingness to share with us; and now that we are done with the sharing, I believe it did.
As we sat up front watching Mr. Du watch the video, I became overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude not only for Mr. Du but the rest of the Xizhou community that so openly welcomed us into their village. During the sharing, I realized just how amazing the connection we made with Mr. Du is. Over the past couple of weeks, we had built so much trust that he was willing to share some of the harder parts of his past with us. The whole point of this project was to make something meaningful to thank the members of this unique, beautiful community for how well they have treated us over the past month and welcomed us into their homes and community with open arms. Before coming to Xizhou, I never would have imagined feeling so much love and appreciation for a group of people that I had only spent a month with; but then again, Microcampus has done a lot of things that would have been hard to comprehend before this experience. As I am writing this, my heart feels full with appreciation for these amazing people, and that is the feeling that all of the Voyagers wanted to convey with this work. With all of the videos, I fell in love with Xizhou and the amazing people here who so willingly talked to us about their pasts.
I noticed that the audience was very quiet when watching our video. Mr. Du was watching the project very intently and that scared me. I thought that he might have been upset by the video, but when he told us afterward that he liked the project I felt very relieved. I have never had an experience before where I watched someone watch something I made for and about them like this. I am so happy that I got this experience to thank Mr. Du and Xizhou for how amazing they have been.
Future Microcampus students involved in a Service Learning project should always try to be helpful to their group members. Some people will take on heavier loads with this work so it is essential for the group to support them. Also, make strong connections with elders in Xizhou from Day 1 of Microcampus. It is so important to have a lot of options and back up plans in case anything goes wrong. The connection is the important thing; if the connection is strong, the video will be good. Finally, make your video good quality. Film in a quiet spot and consider the lighting and background. Just remember that this project is all about showing gratitude to the community and make the video fit with that idea. If the video is done well, it will be a proper thank you to the partner and the community.