An interview with Volunter Program China participant – Priscilla Azofeifa

Please introduce yourself: What’s your name? Where are you from?

My name is Priscilla Azofeifa. I am from Costa Rica, Central America.

Why did you choose to come to China with ImmerQi?

ImmerQi offered options that were really valuable for the foster home and for me. For example, they helped me get a visa, which can be really hard without the help of other people.

Have you volunteered before?

Yes. I have volunteered in other countries but this was my first time in Asia and for an extended period.

How have you found settling in to China?

At first it was extremely difficult because of the weather, pollution and just adapting to the food and environment. After 3 months I can say that I feel comfortable and I manage to get around using public transport. The communication is another factor that has been difficult for me but there is always help available.

What do you like about living in China?

I like the opportunity to help the children from the foster home and it is a beautiful place too.

What’s difficult about living in China?

The weather, pollution and communication.

What kinds of projects have you been working on at your volunteer placement?

They needed someone to take care of a new toddler’s class that had started just a month before I arrived. Five children between the ages of two and four that were able to see from one eye were selected for this class. The main goal was to teach them English so they would be prepared if they got adopted.

How have you worked with other volunteers and staff to provide a caring environment for your trainees?

For a month I worked with another volunteer teaching, planning and finding ways to improve the class. Also I had worked with the Educational Director of the orphanage to implement new strategies with the kids. Every day is team work with other teachers and the Aiyis.

How do you feel you have made a difference during your volunteer placement?

The children in my class have improved so much in their communication skills, fine motor, gross motor and social skills that I am just amazed each day. If it wasn’t for this class, these kids would be playing all day long without getting stimulated and prepared for future learning.
Two of them might be getting adopted soon, so I’m sure that having English vocabulary will help them in this new transition.

What kind of support have you received from your volunteer placement and ImmerQi?

Any time I’ve needed anything, ImmerQi and the orphanage were there to help. Things like communication, transportation, medicine, dietary requirements etc.

What social and cultural activities have you enjoyed participating in?

The foster home’s Christmas Concert
Life Style magazine anniversary with the kids
Celebrating Chinese New Year in HouHai Lake
Visiting the Ice Festival

Have you managed to travel much during your time in China?

Not too much, my schedule at my placement has been pretty busy.

Have you managed to learn some of the language?

I had learned few words, but since I spend all day long teaching English I don’t necessarily practice.

How has this experience helped you develop personally?

I have learned so much from these kids. Learning theory is nothing if you don’t get to practice. Each day is a new experience and I know this will help me with my future plans. I feel more independent and strong.

How will this experience benefit you in the future?

It will help me understand how a foster home could be managed and how to provide special care to kids with special needs.

What are your plans after you have finished at your volunteer placement?

I’m planning to visit North India for a month and then another month in Spain and the USA, doing some volunteering as well.

Do you have any entertaining stories about your time in China?

Well, first I need to clarify that in Costa Rica we don’t have a subway system, so it was extremely difficult for me to finally understand how to use it by myself. I was supposed to meet some friends from ImmerQi to go to an Ice Festival and I got to the subway an hour and a half early to make sure I would be on time. However, I went in the incorrect direction, I must not have been paying attention, and had to travel 40 more minutes to meet the rest. I almost cried because I really wanted to get to the festival and I ran so fast in the transfers to get there. When I finally got there, all exhausted and embarrassed for being late, Kirsty told me that the train would not leave for another 45 minutes! So, ultimately, I done all that running and worrying for nothing!

What advice would you give to any future volunteers?

Just come with an open mind and enjoy learning from such a different culture.

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