Rebecca Lee – Friends Forever Article  

jacquelineJacqueline Cheung 

Participating in Project Shine is one of the best decisions I have made. This summer, we went to LuoCheng and met a group of loving teenagers. The experience was so full of love that my heart melted within days. Words simply cannot express how much love I have received from not only the students, but also everyone in LuoCheng County. I learned to genuinely love and be loved tremendously in a short period of time. Love is contagious, and by sharing love wherever we go and whenever we can, love goes a long way. image6 image7

One of my students, Yancy, wrote to me, “I can’t believe the time has come to say goodbye. I’m really going to miss you. I wish there was a better word than ‘thanks’ to express my appreciation for your generous help.” As a matter of fact, I would like to say the same to her. Thank you is definitely an understatement of how grateful I am to have met and learned from all my students.

Another student of mine named Touch wrote, “I hope you can be happy every day. In a word, thank you for the long journey to the city this place to teach us. I will not forget you because I love you forever.” As short as the trip in LuoCheng may seem, the experience and love shared amongst everyone last for a lifetime. Touch explained to me in class that he named himself Touch because he wanted to touch people’s heart, and he did. He touched my heart, and just like him, I love him forever.



Ten Short Days and a Life Time of Friendship

It’s been just over two weeks since our emotional last day in LuoCheng, GuangXi. On that day, the students gave me and my teaching partners each a heart shaped farewell gift filled with a priceless collection of origami. The students tearfully handed us hand written letters and notes to take home. The next day, coming down the hotel elevator with my luggage, I was stunned to see the entire student body in the hotel lobby. They came to say good-bye. The outpouring of love from the students was so intense I did not know what to say. It was a gentle and tender moment. Only now, after two weeks, did I muster enough courage to read the hand written letters and notes. Tears flowed as I read each of the letters. Through every word and sentence, you can share in the sadness of departing friends but also the expressions of joy, hope and a renewed determination for life. A sense of peace came over me as I reflected on the many dear friends I have in LuoCheng.

My decision to go to China started with my vision trips to GuangXi in 2012 with Dr. Leung and the CRRS team where we visited a number of the poverty-stricken areas in GuangXi. My encounters with the people in the market place, the villagers, and the young people at the local schools offered me the opportunities to see the daily grind and constant struggles they face each day. China has undoubtedly prospered, but for those living in rural areas, the prosperity of China has not trickled down. The support CRRS provides becomes extremely important. The financial assistance, the time spent being there to visit them, the personal attention and care offered to the many young people through Project Shine have a direct impact on each of their lives. My other reason is simple. I felt a connection with China even though I grew up in Canada. Perhaps it is because China is the land of my ancestors and I felt the need to make a difference there. image8-small image9-small

2015 took us to LuoCheng, a new location for Project Shine in GuangXi. I was surprised to learn in the first couple of days, that some of the faculty members at the local high school thought that the Project Shine team was paid to be there. I quickly shared with them that each member of the team was a volunteer who had paid their own airfare and expenses, and gave their own time to be in LuoCheng. Our team (that ended up more like family) consisted of loving, caring, and talented individuals representing Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, New York, Atlanta and Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the key reason of our trip was the students in LuoCheng. We were there to share our love for them through the teaching of the English language and in return, they gave us their love and their friendship. We were all touched by their heart felt generosity and their genuine love for the entire Project Shine team.

The need to support the family has taken many of their parents to far away cities to find work, and as a result, the warmth and love of a family has proven to be elusive to many students. At school, they are discouraged from asking questions or expressing their thoughts and are forced to internalize their many struggles and challenges. Project Shine offered them an opportunity to shine, question, make mistakes and learn in a nurturing environment. In their letters, many expressed their sincere thanks for the opportunity to practice their English with us and for us being there for them. Some of the students shared their initial sense of hopelessness in a world that shut them out, and how participating in Project Shine renewed the sense of hope and joy in their lives. The entire team from North America benefited in a similar way. We developed a new appreciation of what we have back home and a renewed faith in the importance of reaching out to others. There are many imperfections in each of our lives; however, I believe we are made perfect when we reach out to one another in love. What we do in LuoCheng does matter and our presence does make a difference. A young man in class 2 named Chris said it best in his letter, “Ten days ago we were strangers; we part today as good friends”. This is priceless.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve with several charities locally in Canada, but one simple fact remains, the young people in China hold a special place in my heart. When you finally get a chance to see the amazing smiles on their faces, you will understand what I mean.

To my students in Class 2 in LuoCheng, I Love You!


KittyKitty Ng

On July 9th, 2015, I set sail on a journey that has transformed my life. It may sound dramatic or exaggerated to those unfamiliar with Project Shine, but I am certain that I share this feeling with all team members. How many of us can pinpoint one particular experience in your lifetime where you feel all emotions so deeply, all of happiness, love, sadness, guilt and hope?

I travelled from my familiar home, a metropolitan city with population in the millions, to a foreign land called Luocheng, Guangxi. Being born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto, I’d like to think I am quite familiar with the Chinese culture, from the stereotypical squat toilets, which I have prepared myself to embrace, to the relatively conservative ways and mannerisms. But what I have not prepared for, was all the love, respect, genuineness and gratitude that all these students have taught me.

When we first arrived, students were very shy and slightly reluctantly to fully open up and join our activities, like singing or role playing. Words cannot express how glad I am that in just a few days, they have warmed up to us and started singing As Long As You Love Me by Backstreet Boys even louder than me. They seemed to really enjoy that song. I also started following my students on QQ and some even said they were “poisoned” by the song and addicted to our love. I know these intelligent teenagers appreciated our enthusiasm and love for them, and what they did was multiplied that love by a thousand times and reciprocated. We shared our meals, laughter, music and most importantly, our moments together. This is the most immense happiness and strongest love that I have ever experienced in my life. image10

A typical 17 year old in China living in a small city like Luocheng maybe an only child, or have one sibling, with their parents generally working as farmers or as factory workers abroad in a different province to support their family. Luocheng high school is a mandatory boarding school, students are required to stay in during school hours, classroom activities run from 7:30am to 9pm with a few hours of break for food and exercise in between. Aside from the long hours of actual schooling, this also means that there is very little time for personal activities like connecting with family and friends. They do have phones and internet, but it is not allowed in the school. In comparison to the fortunate life that I live, I felt extremely guilty for having complained about the littlest things in life. Even though, it was a short 11 days, I have grown so close to the students that saying goodbye was very difficult. I will never forget the number of students crying and waving goodbyes when the bus full of teachers left Luocheng. One of the biggest things that I have learned from these students is to be appreciative and show gratitude for everything in life. Regardless of your upbringing, background and culture, I realized that love can bring people together and one should always be hopeful. I hope that Project Shine can continue to shed light on and touch the lives of more students and teachers.


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