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                    Lighting Flames of Hope in Volunteer Teaching



                    The sun shone through the trees and fell onto both of them, who hadn't spoken for a while. "Tell me why you don't want to come to school?" Looking at the silent boy with a lowered head, Liu Wei asked again. Peng Yisong anxiously rubbed the corner of his jacket and lifted his head, "Wuge ...... I, I always lag behind ...... My family is not ......" Before he finished, Liu Wei understood and patted him on the shoulder, "It's no big deal to be behind at the beginning of a semester. Don't be dismayed. But you should consider why your parents insist that you come to school, when your family is not well-off?" Peng Yisong lowered his head again without saying a word, but his eyes reddened.

                    Shortly before this private conversation, the 14th Shaanxi Normal University Graduate Students Volunteer Teaching Team headed by Liu Wei arrived at state-level poverty stricken Shanyang county of Shaanxi province and began their one year volunteer teaching work. Liu Wei taught Politics to five classes of about 400 high school freshman students at Shanyang Middle School. He would do morning exercise with students in the morning and accompany them for self-study in the evening, spending almost the whole day with them. Very soon he was well accepted by students and became their "Trusting Big Brother". They knew Liu Wei was nicknamed Old Fifth, so they intimately called him Wuge, meaning Brother Five, and would like sharing their thoughts and secrets with him. But Liu Wei soon ran into a difficult problem. "Children in this mountainous region drop out of school easily, for various reasons ------ Some poor families need farm hands; 'attending school is useless'; mountain trails are too rough ......" Though a little discouraged, he told himself, "In any event, we must do our best to bring them back to the classroom."

                    Every time he stepped onto the podium and looked at the students sitting still in the classroom, Liu Wei would think of when he was a little boy. They raised their heads looking at him, earnest-faced; they were thirsty for knowledge, but were afraid to ask questions, let alone dreaming of reaching out of the mountains.

                    Ten years ago, Liu Wei was a freshman high school student at Shanyang Middle School. In this desolate mountain county, all people see are endless mountains, sky above mountains, and winding roads stretching among the mountains. Then Du Juan, Zhao Xu and Gong Xi came with the 7th SNNU Graduate Students Volunteer Teaching Team, bringing with them fresh and advanced teaching methods. English teacher Du Juan wanted the shy students to open their mouths, so she asked them to raise their hands to volunteer to read English texts aloud, for she found the mountain children were reserved and cautious about speaking English. Attempting to have a try, Liu Wei raised his right hand hesitantly, but only put it down unconfidently. Du Juan was careful to spot this and asked him to read the text. The first reading was far from perfect. Liu Wei stumbled here and there and made many mistakes, but Du Juan was generous with praises in class and only pointed out his mistakes after class.

                    Apart from professional and patient teaching, these volunteer teachers would tell many stories of the outside world to their students. It seemed that Liu Wei's once hazy vision was gradually brightened. "What is the colorful world like out there? Beyond these mountains?" Both of his brothers just finished junior middle school, and his family wanted him to go to college. Liu Wei himself was tenacious, but he lacked confidence and courage. Now with the volunteer teachers' help with his study and the encouragement to "go beyond the mountains", Liu Wei's ambition was lit up, "If I can walk to school through endless mountain roads, why can't I keep walking till I get to the outside world?" He made up his mind that studying at Shaanxi Normal University was his goal and he would also volunteer teach once he became a college student.

                    After unremitting efforts, Liu Wei was admitted to Shaanxi Normal University in 2008. Three years later, it was summer of 2011 and he was a junior in college. His classmates were either preparing for the graduate entrance exam or looking for intern positions. Liu Wei was about to do the same, but he felt lost, as if it was not the future he was striving for. Just before National Judicial Examination, he had a dream. In the dream, he was standing on the podium of Shanyang Middle School, and students stared at him, just like himself staring at the teacher back at the school. After waking up, he froze for a while and then made a decision to apply for SNNU volunteer teaching team. In the application, he wrote, "As a child of the mountains, it is my unshirkable duty to go back home for volunteer teaching. As a student who is able to finish school thanks to financial aid, it is my mission to help others in need and repay the society." So after one year, he came back to Shanyang as a volunteer teacher.

                    Looking back on his own experience, Liu Wei realized that a volunteer teacher should teach students more than knowledge, but more importantly open a window to the outside world and set goals for them. "I want them to understand that everyone can change their own fate by working hard, and go beyond the mountains."After class, he would tell them stories. He told the story of 7th Iron Company from the TV series Soldiers Sortie and encouraged them to "Never abandon, never give up". He told them that the spot they stood on was not an end of a narrow strip of green field, but the beginning of the boundless ocean. He also talked about what he did at university: summer volunteer teaching in Fengxian county, Baoji city and summer social practice in Shanyang county ...... "I thought since I was helped by others, I should repay them with my actual work." Students nodded in response. Gradually, they began to volunteer and answer questions and dared to ask questions in class. Eventually, many students including Peng Yisong made their way to colleges.

                    It was early June and Liu Wei's one-year volunteer teaching would soon came to an end. One evening, he clicked on a flicking QQ message sent by his student Wang Wei: "I'm a volunteer myself now! Check the photo I sent you." He opened the photo and saw Wang Wei stand outside a College Entrance Exam center wearing a "Exam Service Volunteer" sash, grinning with pride. A gratified smile appeared on Liu Wei's face.

                    Liu Wei now is a graduate student in a master's program in Judicial Studies in SNNU's School of Politics and Economics. He was elected a representative of teachers of Shanyang county, awarded the 9th China Outstanding Young Volunteer in 2012, and the 12th Shaanxi Youth May 4th medalist in 2013.

                    In response to so many honors, Liu Wei simply said, "There is no ending for repaying society. For me, the biggest reward is to pass on volunteerism to others."

                    Text by Ding Tian, Chen Xiaodan

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