Volunteer teachers take art education to remote county

Wu Huixin
The China Academy of Art has been sending out volunteer teachers to the remote Jingdong Yi Autonomous County in Yunnan Province for the nine years to teach art to local children.
Wu Huixin

In the past nine years, the China Academy of Art has sent 21 volunteer groups to Jingdong Yi Autonomous County in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Another group of volunteers are now undergoing training before departing for Jingdong.

"Volunteer teaching is not only about voluntary services. It is also a process of self-refinement for the postgraduates," said Zhuo Meihong, Party secretary of the CAA. "I hope the volunteers can help local children and teenagers explore the outside world through art."

"When the academy was selecting volunteers, it preferred postgraduates with outstanding expertise and experience. Volunteer teaching is not to make local students happy, but to teach them how to create happiness for themselves," said Zhuo.

Jingdong is located near the border with Myanmar and dominated by the Yi minority people. In 2004, the first group of volunteers traveled 38 hours by train and 11 hours on foot to reach the area. Such lengthy journeys have lasted nine years.

In a bid to enrich local students' extracurricular life, volunteer teachers have hosted events, competitions and lectures on computer skills, photography, poster making and art.

Meanwhile, the distinctive Yi ethnic culture influenced the CAA students.

Volunteer teachers take art education to remote county
Ti Gong

Jin Yuhao teaches e-commerce at the Jingdong Vocational School.

In 2019, Wu Shiqian and Chen Nanxi designed costumes featuring Yi-style embroidery distinguished by red and white thread outlines. It was displayed at the Hangzhou International Cultural and Creative Industry Expo, promoting the culture of a remote county that is less-known.

"That is the long-lasting friendship between Hangzhou and Jingdong," said Zhuo. "I hope the new group could innovate teaching methods and explore more possibilities in local education."

Volunteers from CAA utilize their professional expertise to create art workshops in primary schools.

"A mother attended one of my art classes and asked me to host classes in other primary schools. That made me feel ashamed, because I cannot do that due to my limited ability," said Jin Yuhao, a volunteer teacher.

The classroom was always crowded with children when Jin was teaching art.

"When I looked into their eyes, I just wanted to teach them everything I can," Jin recalled.

In efforts to bring art to more children and teenagers, the volunteer teachers launched art classes in a special school for the first time this year.

"The class had a series of incidents, but it didn't impact their thirst for art," said Wang Panyue, a volunteer teacher. "They are special, but I hope we could help them as much as possible."

The CAA volunteers have also coordinated with vocational schools to develop e-commerce major.

Volunteer teachers take art education to remote county
Ti Gong

Wang Panyue teaches a boy how to handle a brush pen.

"Local students have little e-commerce skills since they are not connected with online stores in daily life. Even some basic concepts were too abstract for them to understand," said Xiong Junling, who teaches e-commerce in Jingdong Vocational School.

"They knew nothing about e-commerce and in return they don't have the enthusiasm to learn. It made me realize that good education is not instilling knowledge in students, but to ignite them."

Xiong changed his teaching methods. He set up targets and encouraged students to practice by themselves, which proved more effective than before.

"A student found me on WeChat and said, 'you are the first teacher who made me find interest in learning.' That really motivated me and my coworkers," Xiong recalled.

He established a painting and calligraphy club at the school, which gradually bonded them and in return boosted their enthusiasm in learning e-commerce.

"Volunteer teachers have imparted to students love, hope, belief and expertise year by year. That is the most important meaning to us," said Xiong.

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