November 27th, 2005
About mid November my teaching partner and I gave an assignment to our students while we were in Xi’an. We were there a week so we wanted they students to do something interesting and have an assignment due when we returned, so it wasn’t just a free week off for them. We got this great idea from another teacher in another province and we went with it.
According to the following article, Mainland China lags behind in total amounts given for charity.
We read this article in class and talked about how and what the students could do for poor people and how practical that was. There were some interesting ideas…and that was our base for the homework assignment. We gave each student specific instructions in an envelope along with 20 RMB ($2.47) and told them not to stop at KFC on the way home with our money but to use it to help another person. Then record day by day what you did and what you felt and so on. When we return you will give a presentation as to what you felt and did with the money.
Here are some of the results…
-Most students mentioned that they would never forget the moment they opened the envelope and saw that there was 20 yuan inside. Some mentioned that they thought I had gone crazy and made a mistake and given my money just to her…until she saw her classmates with 20 yuan also.
-Most also said that their Chinese teachers would never do this and have never done this. If this was an assignment from Chinese teachers it would have to be from the students own money.
One student forgot the whole thing and quickly ended up giving 10 yuan away. He still owes me 10 yuan.
-There are charities in Shanghai, unbeknownst to me…and some students were able to give the money to their local neighborhood charity. Perhaps they were collecting clothes for WESTERN CHINA, or clothes and goods for the poor parts of YUNNAN province. I was happy that money was able to go toward those kind of causes.
-One student bought four 5 yuan CHARITY LOTTERY TICKETS. I told him that if you win, technically I get the money right?
-One big problem and reoccurring comment by all students was the fact that beggars in Shanghai are professionals. This is what they do. They beg. And most of them are cheaters, there is no way to be absolutely sure that they are really in need. Even the children, no matter how sad and nasty they look or smell the money you give them will not affect them in any way, it will be given to either the father or mother or their employer. So sad. I think there should be a special place in HELL for people who rip off charitable and generous people. You know what I am saying. But nevertheless, they exist and students were concerned about these kind of people. So concerned that some never gave a thing to really needy people for fear that they, and in turn I, would be ripped off. Crazy.
-A surprising number of students showed just how “Shanghainese” they are and gave the money to street musicians. I was shocked but their intentions seemed ok. But come on, Street musicians??
-4 girls got together and combined forces to a total of 100 yuan and gave money to a student here at Sanda University whose mother has STOMACH CANCER. They two girls went on to explain how the assignment changed their idea in life a bit. They mentioned that they will think twice now about buying things they don’t need.
-One student helped an old neighbor whose husband died and is living all alone. She bought a box of milk packets and banananas and went to visit her.
-One student was really touched by the assignment and the money and was walking down one of the busiest roads here in Shanghai and came upon this old woman selling some sort of flowers and the student just bought her out with the 20 yuan. The old lady was so astonished and happy, the student wrote, “The old woman was so happy and held my hand for some time.” She went on to explain in her presentation that money is not everything and most of the time it isn’t enough.
-One student gave to a pregnant woman kneeling on the ground saying that her husband was killed in a car accident. She was convinced this one was real because she was pregnant.
-One student gave money to a little boy. The class was convinced just by her description that he was a con artist and totally ripped her off. She explained the whole story and it sounded legitimate but the students laughed at her apparent foolishness. The child was from a different city’s surrounding countryside area. He was in Shanghai to work but all his money was stolen and she asked for his mom and dad’s cell phone number. She called his mom and dad up and told them what had happened. She was touched by the way he talked to his mom and dad on the phone…seemed like they hadn’t talked for a while. She gave the 20 yuan and told him to get some food and await his parents arrival in Shanghai. I said ok. Again the students laughed at her wasted money. They asked if the number to her parents was a Shanghai number, or from another city. It was a cell phone number. She rose her voice to tell her classmates, “Look, if I am worried the whole time about whether some one is a scam artist or not, I’ll never be able to use the money!!!!” I said under my breath, AMEN!
-One student thought long and hard of what to do for this assignment. She was in the subway and saw a countryside man who was having trouble with his huge bags and did the subway entrance thing wrong, (the way to put your card in the slot and everything, it is really complicated) and actually fell and caused a huge traffic jam during rush hour (which is every hour in Shanghai). Because of his mistakes he was now supposed to go back to the ticket counter and get a new ticket. She then over heard someone say to him, “GO HOME TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM, YOU DON’T BELONG IN SHANGHAI!!!” She was shocked and really saddened of how her fellow Shanghainese were not stepping up to help him and then insulting him when he is down. So sad. She gave him the 20 yuan and told him to buy the new ticket and then keep the change. They guy was reluctant at first but then with a big smile took the money and said thank you.
-One student was eating at a Western Fast Food restaurant and a Deaf and Dumb person came in selling things. They come up to you eating and give you a card to read. The student bought one and gave it to me during class. It was a nail clipper. Cool.
-Another student divided up her 20 yuan and spent it on a couple different things. But had several yuan left when she got on the bus to return home. This old woman got on the bus and was ready to pay her ticket when she realized that her wallet was stolen. My student paid for her ticket and the woman apparently thanked her 10 times over. So cool.
-One student bought fruit and biscuits and brought them to a nursing home. There were smiles all around she said.
-One student bought food, pencils and books for kids at an Orphanage for the Deaf and Dumb.
-A couple students gave to a student who was at Sanda who had a “big disease” as the students called it.
All in all it was a good assignment and a wonderful idea. I thank the guys who gave me the idea. Anyway, the students really did affect others around them and I felt like I inadvertantly helpled all of those people. Good job students!! I just hope this idea stays with them and they continue to spread the wealth!!!
Posted November 27th 2005