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ImmerQi Volunteer Project Manager, Kirsty Armstrong and Project Assistant, Jodi Yang, accompanied some program participants as they ventured to the Beijing Zoo with an excitable group of kids from a local foster home for visually impaired children. It’s safe to say that it was a spectacular day out!

The day started off a little shakily, as we all worried about the rain clouds gathering overhead. We really hoped that we wouldn’t have to cancel the trip! Fortunately, the grayness quickly dispersed and we were able to look forward to the adventure ahead! In preparation for the trip, the children at the foster home have been working on a variety of hand-made pieces of art including paintings and drawings, all about animals, as well as learning some new English vocabulary. Despite their visual impairments, the children did an excellent job of producing some amazing pieces of art work.

17 individuals joined the excursion, including volunteers, children and foreign instructors (two ImmerQi volunteers, Priscilla and Rachel were in attendance). There’s nothing quite as heartwarming as witnessing large hands clasping small hands in a warm embrace as everybody swept excitedly through the zoo. At snack time, the children indulged on some tasty treats including bananas, chocolate bars, tomatoes and biscuits, providing them with the energy they needed to sustain themselves throughout the day. After lunch, the real adventure began.

A member of staff noticed a large group of people gathered around one particular enclosure. Naturally, our group of visitors was drawn to the spectacle, which turned out to be an absolutely stunning polar bear. The children, held up by the adults of the group, shouted in English “bear, bear!”, very excited by the sight of such a rare and gracious animal! As if on cue, the bear responded with a performance of jumping and diving in the water. Stunned by the beauty of the animal, all of the children exhaled a long “Woooooooooow” in unison, just like a chorus!

The next stop was the kangaroo enclosure, a chance to show the children what strange animals come from the land of Australia! One little girl called Sophie was very eager to show us how a kangaroo moves. She spent some time hopping around as the rest of us chanted “Jump, Jump!”. Then, Sophie started counting on her hands… “one, two, three, four…”. I was confused at first, but then realized that she was counting the number of kangaroos in the enclosure! We celebrated and congratulated Sophie for using her English skills!
The next animal that caught our eye was an impressive ostrich. The children kept shouting “Bird! Bird!”, intrigued by the enormous, almost mythically winged creature in front of them! Close by where the parrots, monkeys and lamas. One little boy, Zhuang Zhuang, was really fascinated by the monkeys and spent the next 10 minutes chanting the word over and over!

The children’s’ favorite animal was definitely the elephant. At first, they didn’t know how to say the English word ‘elephant’, but they soon picked it up! Unfortunately, the children were too small to be able to approach the elephant and touch it, but it was an amazing experience nonetheless! We taught the children some more English words here, including ‘eye, nose, ear & tail’!

A rather exhausted group of kids (and adults!) then sat down to an afternoon snack before heading back home, comprising of sandwiches, crisps, apple juice and biscuits! All of the students munched away happily, occasionally blurting out the word ‘yummy’ between mouthfuls.

The day as a whole was a great success, everybody had enormous amounts of fun, including myself and the ImmerQi’s volunteers. More importantly, the children from the orphanage had a chance to explore a strange and new environment, despite their own inconveniences, and spent the day learning and having fun. I can’t wait for the next event!

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