Speeches on PEACH Event on 12/2/2018
By Jimmy Ji
My First Summer Camp Experience
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Jimmy Ji and I am here to tell you the story of my first summer camp experience with the PEACH Foundation. For those who have never met me before, I am Emily’s husband and Ruth’s son-in-law. My first summer camp occurred back in August of 2017 during a visit to the city of HuiZe in the Yunnan Province. This trip has been planned for quite some time and I knew I would have an opportunity to participate ever since I first learned of the PEACH Foundation from Emily back in 2013.
When the week of our trip finally arrived, I suddenly became very fearful. My biggest concern was my lack of ability to speak and understand mandarin. Although I was born in China, I immigrated to the US prior to having any formal education in China. I began to worry. What if my kids were unable to understand me? How will I be able to explain to them the meaning of certain words? I told Emily of my frustrations but she encouraged me to not be afraid of the language barrier. She told me that other donors have encountered the same problem and was able to overcome it.
When we finally arrived in HuiZe, it felt as if we stepped back into time. From the city streets to the building architecture, the city felt quiet and primitive. It was nothing compared to the bustling environment of downtown Kunming, the rendezvous point for everyone attending PEACH summer camp. I remember our first order of business was to conduct home visits for some of the kids who were attending that year’s camp. We drove several hours through treacherous mountainous roads in order to reach the remote countryside villages where some of these kids grew up. As we trekked through muddy hills closer towards the village, the smell of pig manure filled the air. I was shocked by the conditions in which some of these kids were living in. The village lacked everything from an adequate sewage system to electricity to basic Internet access, things we cannot imagine living without. The villagers even grew their own crops and raised their own livestock in order to feed themselves. It was truly a humbling experience.
As I stepped into my first class, my nervousness took over and I started to forget my lesson plan. I remember we were told to focus on helping improve the student’s English pronunciations but I did not know where to begin. I started the lesson by giving a brief introduction of myself in English and to my surprise, most of my students understood what I was saying! At times when there were students who had trouble understanding my dialogue, the students who did understand would jump in and translate in mandarin to the rest of the class. I was so inspired by the collaborative nature of my students, I decided to give my best effort in helping my students improve upon their English pronunciations in the little time we had together. I even learned to be patient and persistent with my students especially at times when they were having difficulty reading passages or pronouncing certain vowels and syllables. I was very proud of the effort that my students put in and I will never forget the wonderful times we had together in that classroom.
On our final day of instructions, we were given a break to play with our students in the playground. Nothing made me feel more old and un-athletic as getting beat by a bunch of high school teenagers in the game of basketball. When we gathered for the final performances from all the different classes, I can recall seeing the happiness and the enthusiasm in all their faces. One by one, each class performed their routine for the rest of the audience members. As I watched their performances, it gave me hope. The PEACH Foundation has provided countless student with the opportunity to achieve greater success in life through education and mentorship. Being able to see the impact that the PEACH Foundation has on these kids first hand is truly a life changing experience and one I will never forget. This trip has given me a whole new perspective on life and has taught me the value of kindness, empathy and compassion. Lastly, I want to thank Ruth Jeng and the rest of the PEACH staff for all the hard work they put into this organization. Without them, none of this would have ever happened so thank you.