Learning while taking tea wins national recognition

Yang Yang
The "Village Tea House Classroom," a volunteer program in Xinbang Town of Songjiang District, has been selected as one of the nation's best volunteer programs.
Yang Yang

The “Village Tea House Classroom,” a volunteer program in Xinbang Town of Songjiang District, has been selected as one of the nation’s best volunteer programs by the Publicity Department of Communist Party of China and the Central Civilization Office.

Among Xinbang’s 27,000 people, those aged 60 and above account for 40 percent. With the younger generation away from home and the distribution of farmhouses scattered, village tea houses have become popular venues for those staying at home.

To enrich the lifestyle of elderly villagers, a group of Xinbang-born teachers launched the program in 2013.

The program had seven teachers in the beginning with courses usually focused on topics including tea drinking and staying healthy, acupuncture point health care and how to maintain a good diet. But the “students” would quit whenever they found the courses dull.

To make the classroom more popular, volunteers continued to enrich the lessons and recruit more teaching members including retired teachers, justice office campaigners, doctors and folk artists. The volunteer team now includes 38 members and offers 36 permanent courses in five categories.

The classrooms are now fully packed and in Hujiadai and Huangjiadai villages and in senior homes residents would come early to get a seat for special sessions.

Feedback forums are held once or twice a year to improve the quality of the courses and learn about what villagers want.

In the past seven years the Village Tea House Classroom has offered 166 lectures for more than 10,000 people at 13 tea houses in Xinbang. One of its students, Shen Shijuan, was awarded as a model of lifelong learning in Shanghai.

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