Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Program creates exchange with China

Heart Touch program, created by international graduate student Fan Yang, allows fourth-graders in after-school programs in Tuscaloosa to learn Chinese culture through an overseas Chinese pen pal and various activities.

“Children find that they have more in common with other cultures than they think,” Yang said. “It makes a lifetime of a difference.”

Heart Touch will start recirculating through seven schools around Tuscaloosa beginning in October.

The program will receive a grant Oct. 1 that will give the nonprofit program the funding needed to make the it more in-depth.

Volunteers follow a curriculum to teach the children about Chinese culture.

Heather Pleasants, director of Community Education, helped provide Yang with administrative and supervisory support while kickstarting her program.

“Programs like this are important because they fulfill the mission to benefit faculty and students in research and teaching while still connecting to organizations and other schools,” Pleasants said.

After Yang spent her undergraduate years at Alabama volunteering in the Tuscaloosa school systems, she wanted to incorporate her social work major with helping children learn cultural diversity.

Last spring, Yang collaborated with the Center for Community-Based Partnerships to make her idea come to life. She now has the opportunity to teach children in public schools how to eat with chopsticks and about Tai Chi – a type of Kung Fu.

Yang said it is all about respecting cultural differences.“You will get more than what you think,” Wenhui Hu, a Heart Touch volunteer, said.

This year, students at Shandong University in China will add a service-learning component by translating Chinese and English elementary students’ letters.

Maintaining all student confidentiality is part of this program. Waivers will be required to be signed in order to participate.

“We think it’s important for parent and student privacy to be protected,” Pleasants said.

There are currently 43 volunteers in the United States, but Yang encourages more people, particularly students, to join. Both undergraduates and graduates are welcome and no Chinese knowledge is required to volunteer.

“It’s a good learning experience for them if they don’t have Chinese knowledge,” Yang said. “The volunteers can share the understanding with the students.”

This October, Heart Touch plans to buy more teaching materials for the children, initiate research and advertise the program through the grant. The program was done entirely by donations from various organizations last semester.

“I hope for this to go further with recruiting more volunteers and collaborating with more partners,” Yang said.

Interested volunteers can contact Yang at [email protected] for more information.


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