Lending a helping hand, in China and overseas

Charlotte Gray has been with the Shanghai Community International School for nearly eight years and has been involved in many clubs, projects and extracurricular activities. 

Charlotte Gray has been with the Shanghai Community International School for nearly eight years and has been involved in many clubs, projects and extracurricular activities from day one. From Model United Nations to sports teams, Gray has done it all.

Recently she led two service trip projects in Laos and Nepal with fellow SCIS volunteers to help impoverished communities. An altruistic person at heart, Gray has found her calling in helping others through her international living experience. We chat with her about her passion and helping those less fortunate.

Q: What is it about your time at SCIS that made you feel ready to move on?

A: I think just being so comfortable here. It’s given me the confidence to be able to take what I’ve learnt here and, hopefully, do more with it somewhere else. Also all that I’ve experienced, the people I met and how challenging the IB has been have definitely played a key role in terms of being ready for the next step.

Charlotte Gray at Nepal

Q: How has your experience living internationally impacted your views on the world? 

A: Because of the order of countries in which I lived in, so by going from Bangladesh to Shanghai, I feel like I’ve experienced both ends of the international living experience spectrum. Having been so young in Bangladesh allowed me to embrace being so international, then when I came to China it was a complete 360. There was a lot of culture shock, everything was just so different from what I was used to before. I think these experiences allowed me to understand what it’s like to live in a really nice place internationally with all the freedoms that you have here in Shanghai, while also the experience of having lived in a developing country where there’s more restrictions, especially being a girl.

Q: I hear you are quite involved in service projects; do you want to walk me through some of them? 

A: Sure, I’ve done two big ones: Nepal and Laos. Laos was the first service trip I went to, and it was during October break of 2016. I went with three other SCIS girls and a teacher. We stayed in a remote village for four days with no Internet, no electricity and we had to take cold showers outside with pigs roaming around our feet. We participated in the “Eco-Bungalow” project where we essentially helped build an environmentally friendly bungalow made out of sand, hay and mud. We walked around in mud a lot to mix together all these natural materials, then we shaped the bricks and waited for them to dry so we could also build the walls and foundation. We were also fortunate to see first-hand how the local community farmed which was pretty neat now that I think about it, as I am currently studying this in Environmental Systems and Societies.

Q: What about the Nepal trip?

A: I had already started planning trip to Nepal prior to Laos, but coming back from the latter really changed me as a person. The fact that there was no electricity, that we slept and woke up based on sunsets and sunrises, ate the local food and lived with a host family communicating in sign language and broken Lao, made the trip an unforgettable experience. Nonetheless, I was very excited to go on another trip. With the help of Mr Lennox (Upper School vice principal), I got in touch with Ocean Nepal, an orphanage established by Rajendra Subedee, with whom I planned the trip. The initial planning processes were very difficult, I had a very low interest from other people at first, but eventually nine students volunteered to participate in going to Nepal. We traveled to a remote village, called Dhading, four hours away from Kathmandu, and stayed there for six days. Over the course of our stay we worked at a local school in the village and helped flatten out the terrain surrounding the school so that a playground could be built. On the last day we managed to get a volleyball net up and actually played with the orphans and local students which was a lot of fun.  

Q: Where does your passion to help others stem from?

A:  My dad works for an international development company and my mum, with her company, used to visit a lot of villages in Bangladesh and provide the local children with school uniforms. I think being exposed to my parents’ work at a young age and going on regular trips with them to see impoverished communities created an urge within me to help those in need, it just took moving to Shanghai and being separated from those environments for me to realize my passion. Now, I genuinely feel that I have found my calling and helping people is what I want to do with my life.

(The article is written by Mikael Masson, digital media marketing officer at SCIS.)

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