Since 2009, more than 20 Mandarin-speaking HWS students and faculty have partnered with Geneva residents to provide tutoring to their children through the “Geneva Chinese for Kids” program.
Initiated by parents in the Geneva area with children of Chinese heritage, including Sharon Abbott, Marlene Havert, Flora Liu, Wei Shen and Linda Wright, the program is held on Saturdays during the school year and taught by volunteers, including Associate Professor of Art Lara Blanchard, her husband, Steve, and Shen.
HWS student volunteers rotate from week to week and are mainly responsible for working one-on-one with the children to complete assigned tasks, which include applying important vocabulary words through hands-on activities.
“When I arrived at HWS, I didn’t expect to have this kind of opportunity to share my language and culture with the greater Geneva community,” says Yaoxin Liu ’12, a mathematics and economics double major with an individual minor, who helped recruit and coordinated with multiple Chinese student volunteers.
In the 2011-2012 academic year, HWS student volunteers included Liu, Ruiqian Dai ’15, Jianxun Gong ’12, Yanli Guo ’12, Chao Hu ’15, Guanqun Li ’14, Tianchu Wu ’15 and Nan Zhang ’15.
“While still in China, I learned how to teach Chinese,” says Wu. “Upon arriving at HWS, I was excited to become a part of this program. Since taking part in the program, I have gained more patience, learned how to teach through play and gained a sense of achievement from their accomplishments.”
Li, a biochemistry major, got involved during his first year and has since fallen in love with the program, especially the cultural sharing that has developed between the Chinese student volunteers and the American families.
“Since Hobart has given me so much, I was really excited to get involved in community service and give back to the HWS and Geneva communities,” says Li. “However, this is not a one-sided exchange, as the parents also take the opportunity to share their cultures through food they prepare for the Saturday meetings. It is really interesting to learn about the different cultures.”
Growing quickly to include more than 30 children, the program serves both the Geneva and HWS communities, including the children of Blanchard, Assistant Professors of Environmental Studies Darrin Magee and Beth Kinne, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Etin Anwar.
“As a member of the program’s planning committee and the advisor to the HWS Asian Student Union (ASU) I initially pitched the idea as a service project to the then-ASU president Ruiwan Xu ’11,” says Blanchard. “Since taking over as student coordinator, Yaoxin Liu has helped transition the program from an exclusively ASU community service project to an inclusive project that mobilized the entire international population of Chinese students at HWS.”
Anwar, whose children also participate in the program, admires Chinese civilization and culture and wanted her children to have the opportunity to learn more about its language. “The program affords my kids the opportunities to learn a new language led by wonderful volunteers from HWS communities,” says Anwar. “The program definitely enhances the HWS community relationship with Geneva. As a parent, I am thankful for this kind of opportunity.”
In the photo above features Associate Professor of Art Lara Blanchard with students.