Today we bring you a guest post from Grace’s good friend Aric Allen, who lives in Guangzhou and works with a local grassroots nonprofit there called the Guangzhou English Training Center for the Handicapped (GETCH). After learning more about the organization, we asked him to write a guest column today for our blog readers.
I’m continually being surprised by life. I guess this is a good thing because it reinforces the fact that I don’t know everything (despite how I may act sometimes.)
Coming to China, I was sure that I knew everything about the Chinese people. To say the least, I’ve been surprised over and over again to get to know a fascinatingly complex people who at times seem both compassionate and contradictory, intelligent and yet confusing, ambitious and giving.One of the greatest surprises, though, has been my discovery of GETCH. The Guangzhou English Training Center for the Handicapped wouldn’t impress you at first sight. They meet in a dilapidated (yet continually renovated) old elementary school located down a mix of back alleyways strewn with clothes hanging out to dry. The school is located off of a nondescript road in downtown Guangzhou. They have a small staff, an even smaller budget, and compared to local colleges, relatively few students.
But it’s the work
that GETCH is doing which surprised me the most. The organization
offers government-approved English certifications, tuition-free,
to disabled college aged students here in China. It’s the first
and only one of its kind to offer such an important tool to
China’s vastly underserved disabled population. The school puts
students through a rigorous multi-year English training program
with the goal of empowering the students to overcome their
handicap and achieve more than they ought to in a country such as
I have been volunteering at GETCH as part of the final internship for my master’s degree. It’s been a continual joy for me to interact with the students and staff as I teach a practical business course aimed at helping the students form and grow a sustainable small business for the purposes of helping to raising funds for GETCH. The students are encouraged to create small businesses, which will return a portion of proceeds back to GETCH and teach the students the practical “ins and outs” of starting a small business.As I have worked with the students, I’ve been nothing short of blessed to witness their enthusiasm, joy, and perseverance in learning English. For most of them, they embrace this opportunity to excel in life—considering their handicaps and the social stigma attached to them. Every Friday morning as I walk the 20-minute walk across the Renmin Bridge to meet the students, I pause and look down over the Pearl River to literally contain my excitement. I’m continually blessed to have them as my students and to be a part of GETCH’s mission to help young handicapped students in China fulfill their dreams.
To find out more about GETCH, please visit our website at http://www.canpei.com/. I think you might just be surprised.