ABOUT MY INTERNSHIP AT MIGRANT CHILDREN’S FOUNDATION
By Stephanie W., Loyola University Chicago, Spring 2017 Student
Migrant Children’s Foundation (MCF) is a UK-registered charity based in Beijing, China. In order to thrive in China’s growing economy, many people from rural areas migrate to the city and bring their families along. Their children, who do not have the Beijing hukou, are denied the benefits of welfare: crucially, healthcare and education. MCF’s role in these children’s lives is as comprehensive as possible. Partnerships with hospitals and healthcare systems allow for periodic health checks as well as dental and optometric care. To provide the schooling these children need, several individuals have developed migrant schools, which are tolerated by the government but receive no public funding. For a small tuition fee, the migrant children learn three subjects (Chinese, English, and math) but do not receive instruction in music, physical education, or art given the school’s financial situation. MCF works with thirteen different schools that serve Beijing’s migrant community. In the spirit of charity and goodwill, everybody who works for MCF is a volunteer.
My internship revolves around several aspects of MCF. The day-to-day operations of this small charity include event planning, fundraising, volunteer organization, networking, curriculum development, and education. I accompany MCF’s volunteer coordinator and assist her with the minutia of each program as well as future projections for MCF. My project working directly with the children features curriculum designed for nursery and primary school students; we incorporate flashcards, games, activities, crafts, and songs in lessons that teach basic English vocabulary. Fundraiser planning involves organization, time management, concision in writing and speaking, and genuine passion for MCF—by using my classroom experience, I hope to be an enthusiastic spokeswoman for this organization.
Unlike other institutions, MCF does not provide its employees with a fixed workspace. I work in cafes, schools, and fundraising venues around Beijing, and I also work from home. The nature of charity work indicates a level of spontaneity most internships do not have; I have very little of an established schedule and often must prepare to work on short notice. By the end of the semester, I hope to know all corners of Beijing and improve my sense of time management.
In addition to the wide variety of places I will see in the city of Beijing, I will also become acquainted with a diverse range of Beijingers. Teaching migrant children allows me to interact with a population that would not be accessible through a normal student’s means, and a local migrant population does not exist at all in the United States. These children are eager to learn and grow, and I truly believe it is a reciprocal process. On the fundraising side of MCF, I am privileged to be a part of and work with the Beijing expat community. Many expats are willing to give their time, money, or both to our cause, and the foreign network in Beijing is mutually helpful and supportive. From the expats whom I have met, those who participate in charity events are keen to empathetically understand the plight of migrant children. Both groups—the expats and the migrant children—are willing and excited to collaborate.
Because MCF operates on a much smaller scale than other NGOs like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, the staff must work a variety of different roles. What I observe is that my role is a Jill-of-all-trades, and the job is demanding but fulfilling. There are equal levels of independent work as well as collaboration with the other staff and volunteer teachers. The students, classes, and schools are different; I must adapt to each individual’s needs and express our solutions precisely to the teachers and the students. Communicating on all levels of interaction remains an important part of this internship, and efficient communication will likely be most valuable this semester.
As I navigate my internship, I hope to explore a range of different skills throughout the course of the semester. Not only will I develop my teaching skills for my future goals in education, but I will also explore both sides of a cause that I feel passionate about. The opportunity MCF has given me to understand an underserved community in Beijing will allow me to advocate for and learn from them in turn.