July 16th, 2014
Mira-Kristin: Hello Brenda! I really do enjoy our walks through the Mongolian steppe. We are enjoying the afternoon sun and feel a soft breeze in the air. I think this is the perfect time time to ask you some questions about your experience with the Amity Summer English Program (SEP) so far. Do you mind?
Brenda: No, not at all. I am all yours. So, what would you like to know?
MK: You are taking part in the Amity Summer English Program for the second time. What brings you back?
Brenda: Oh, it’s an easy way to come to China. As well as my personal circumstances allowed me to come this year. I would have come other years but I couldn’t. Also, it’s the chance to see a different part of China. Other people already joined the SEP 14 times already and seem to experience something new every time.
Also, it’s important to me that The Amity Foundation is not a mission arm of a western church but is an independent christian NGO founded by Chinese people. And they’ve been around since 1985. So they really know their business.
MK: Let’s put it this way: You are a few years older than me. Do you feel this program meets your needs?
Brenda: Yes, I’d say so. I feel that this program is fit for early retirees or people who want to come to China in a comfortable and safe way.
MK: Do you feel safe?
Brenda: Oh yes! The whole experience is far more cushy and safe than I expected. The Amity Foundation and our Chinese supervisors make everything very easy. This program is a wonderful chance for people who want to get to know China beyond the tourist sites, especially on a short term voluntary program like this. There aren’t too many opportunities like this.
MK: The SEP is a four-week short term program. Do you think the program is worth the trouble?
Brenda: Generally speaking, you – as a volunteer – are far more trouble than you are worth, if you don’t speak the local language. However, in this circumstance the language is the skill you bring. So you are not a big trouble, you contribute. At least you pay back by teaching.
MK: Are you a trained language teacher?
Brenda: No, I am not and it is not necessary. You are asked to teach English speaking and listening skills. For those who are not skilled teachers, The Amity Foundation provides wonderful teaching tools and all teaching structure needed. You just need to speak English well and be willing to engage with people. Listen and be responsive and be frankly interested in the culture. My experience is, if I am interested in the answer, the other is willing to share. Grammar certainly isn’t important for that.
MK: Thank you for the conversation!