Community Service and Social Justice in International Schools: A China Perspective

Community Service and Social Justice in International Schools: A China Perspective.
By Alexander Paltos 
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’  – Gandhi.
欲变世界, 先变其身。——甘地
To many people the idea of charity is an elusive and enigmatic one. They may take part in ‘charity raffles/auctions/balls’ and give generously throughout the year in various guises or causes but rarely, if at all, see exactly and literally where that money goes. Moreover, from a corporate perspective, the notion of Social Justice is one which can be seen to just ‘tick a box’ or look good on the website and/or company prospectus. China is no different in this context and can only be seen in a handful of schools.对许多人来说,慈善事务是难以足及且神秘的。很多人可能会参加 “慈善抽奖/拍卖/舞会”等以慈善为由的活动, 并以各种原由慷慨捐助, 但事实上很少看到确切的钱去哪里。此外, 从企业的角度来看, 社会公义及參与发起慈善社区服务可以被看视为企业形象加分动作。不少国內外企业在參与社区服务的同时也在自家网站/公司招股说明书上宣傳並为自身企业提升形象。反观,在中国国內參与社区服务或发起社会公义这方面此类行为只能在少数学校看到。As some of you may know, what makes Haileybury an elite Australian and International school and brand – or UWC or Repton International for that matter – is their commitment and dedication to Community Service and Social Justice. 黑利伯瑞之所以能跻身澳洲和国际精英学校排行榜,是因为他们对社区服务和社会公义的承诺和奉献精神。This can be found in a variety of School, House and Student led activities that focus on giving back to the community in the form of (but not limited to) charities, scholarships, sustainability initiatives, to name but a few. 在学校、分社和学生领导所组织的各种活动中都可以找到以回馈社会为重点的行动。他们会幫助及組织慈善机构、发放奖学金、及关注可持续性倡议等 。

As Founding International Principal of a school in Guangzhou, I have increasingly operated in education according to the Latin phrase ‘Spectemur Agendo’: let us be known by our actions. So when a friend of the School invited me to a charity drive, I therefore saw this opportunity as no exception. 作为广州的创始国际校长, 我越来越多地按照拉丁的谚语 “Spectemur Agendo” 来从事教育工作:躬体力行。因此, 当学校的一位朋友邀请我参与慈善社区服务时, 二话不说马上參与。

So from last Semester on every Wednesday evening, I began volunteering on behalf of our school at a local Guangzhou charity that aims to improve living conditions for Chinese citizens on the brink of starvation by providing them with food, clothes and shelter…and sometimes just someone to talk to. The charity is simply called ‘Homeless Guangzhou’. 因此, 从上一学期每周三晚上开始, 我开始在广州当地一家慈善机构代表 做志愿者, 该慈善机构旨在通过为风餐露宿的中国市民提供食物、衣服和住所等来改善他们的生活条件,有时仅仅是与他们交谈。这家慈善机构被称为 “无家可归的广州”。是一个由5名杂合着本地和外籍人士组成的慈善组织。

The evening begins with everyone meeting in the basement carpark of a luxurious shopping mall in downtown Guangzhou at around 830pm. Heading to the meeting point for the first time I was not quite sure what to expect. Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find a ‘mixed bag’ of locals and expats. It was a great opportunity for me to practice my Mandarin…and for many of my new local friends to practice their English! I was then allocated to a group of strangers: an Indian man who’d been living and working in Guangzhou for 20 years, a UK university exchange student, a ‘wai di ren’ (Chinese but not originally from Guangzhou) who worked in digital marketing and a French lady who worked in business development for a cosmetics company.在晚上八点半左右, 志愿者们在广州市区內一所豪华购物中心会面。第一次与他们聚集在一起, 我不太清楚会有什么令人期待的事发生。抵达后, 我惊喜地发现同伴当中既有当地人也有外国人,这对我来说是一个练习普通话的好机会,而且可以帮助新的本地朋友练习英语。随后, 我被分配到一个全是陌生人小组: 一个在广州生活和工作了 2 0年的印度男人, 一个英国大学交换生, 一个从事数字营销工作的外地人(中国人, 但不是来自广州), 还有一位在广州从事化妆品公司的业务发展的法国女士 。

It was there that we divided up all the provisions – eggs, bread, milk, water, fruit, noodles – into our respective 5 or 6 groups. From there each group of provisions was loaded into a car along with all of the volunteers. We visited two or three sites across Downtown Guangzhou. It really surprised me to see how many Guangzhou locals were homeless and sleeping outside in the spots we visited. 正是在那里, 我们把所有的物资——鸡蛋, 面包, 牛奶, 水, 水果, 面条-各自分成5至6组。每一组食物被对应的志愿者装上了汽车。我们访了广州市中心的几个地点,看到有很多无家可归的当地人睡在路边, 这让我很惊讶 。
What surprised me even more was the kindness and smiles we were greeted with when we were giving out the provisions. For many of these people this is the only time they will have a proper meal (or conversation) for the whole week.当我们发放食物时, 这些无助的人都回报以亲切的微笑让我感到非常暖心。这些微小的东西和互动对他们当中的许多人来说可能是他们这一整周里唯一一次吃一顿像样的饭或和他人聊天。
As we headed home a few hours later it was late (almost midnight) and it started to rain. I was very tired, cold and relieved to be heading home to a roof over my head. This is when it dawned on me – and the other people in the car – that this same luxury is not afforded to the many we had just visited. It made us determined to return next week to see if they were ok and to make sure we could help them again in any way possible. 几个小时后天色已晚 (几乎午夜) 天也开始下起雨来。当我拖着疲倦和寒冷的身体回到家,看到我头上的屋顶,顿时松了口气。从这一刻起,我意识到,我们刚刚访问过的许多人都没象我这样如此幸运能享受同样的奢侈。这让我决定下周回来看看他们的情况, 并确保我能够再次帮助他们。
If our motley crew of five expats/locals could directly impact the lives of over 30 people in just a few hours, the scope and scale for meaningful change from a much larger community – such as a school – should not be underestimated.如果由5名杂合着本地和外籍人士组成的团队能够在短短几个小时内直接影响几十个无助的人, 那么从一个更大的社区——比如一所学校,以更大规模来进行如此有意义变革,就能更大范围幫助到更多人。一所学校通过社区服务可以对改善社会及教育学生社会道德价值的潛力不应被低估。
If change can start with one person, companies and schools should be no different.如果改变可以从一个人开始, 公司和学校改变的力量更強大。


Author Info

Alexander Paltos
Alex has been an educator for almost 20 years. Over half of that time has been spent working outside his native Australia in the UK and the Middle East, including working for international schools or schools that have an ‘international footprint’. His current role is as Founding International Principal of an international school in Guangzhou. It is a joint venture school between Haileybury Australia and a local company in the south of China comprising over 30000 employees. Alex also has his own education consulting company and outdoor education business.