Social Sabbatical Beijing: How does volunteering in China look like?

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Welcome to a story bound to describe what was and still is an incredible experience! Not just volunteering in China, not just a social sabbatical in Beijing. An experience to shake images and stereotypes, to trigger a small change for the bigger good, to improve lives!

 

Let’s make things happen

Inspiration is all we need!

One work week and one lovely long weekend had passed since our international group of diverse SAP talents arrived in Beijing to help the world run better.

OK…wait wait! Are these random dreams of mine or I have been hallucinating after a couple of low-quality-sleep-jet-lagged nights and probably few Yanjing beers? What if I told you it is about combining the above into a dream-come-true experience?

Too complicated? Yes. Too rushed? Sure. Overly excited – that is me! I had no time in the last 10 days to write a single word because we are all so busy in getting started with our projects and absorbing the local culture. Expectations are set high and 4 weeks is all we have – lots of work need to be done! With this rushed everyday life, as much as the life in Beijing itself is – we forget to cherish the moment! And all we can actually have is that moment!

 

The beginning

I will correct that mistake of mine: I will try to broadcast my inspirational thoughts with the single goal/purpose? to share the amounts of energy that fills my brain, heart, and soul. The energy that is generated by every minute of working and living with the best-of-the-best people from all over the world and China!

Well, I lied, I have one personal goal/purpose? too. I am not a hidden agenda person, so I confess: I want to read those memories someday when I am not feeling enthusiastic and excited and I am not overwhelmed by the idea of making the world run better by improving people’ life. Then I could simply read this and become that passionate person again.

Let the journey take you to  Beijing - size matters

I believe everyone is present here and now for a reason. And the reason is not personal qualities and experience – what everyone might think. I believe the reason we are right here right now is that we are the people to make things happen!

Team Guanxi = make things happen!

Only time can show if I was right or wrong…it better shows I am right 🙂

 

Blossom at the Mu Tian Yu part of the Great Wall
Blossom at the Mu Tian Yu part of the Great Wall

 

Meet team Guanxi

We are here to help our customers scale in a sustainable way!

We are here to inspire and support!

We are here to boost global engagement!

 

Team Guanxi demonstrating the positive spirit and strengthening their relationship on the Great Wall of China.
Team Guanxi demonstrating the positive spirit and strengthening their relationship on the Great Wall of China.

 

The author of "Beijing Social Blossom" stories - Bistra - traveler, dancer, writer focused on making people happy.
The author of “Beijing Social Blossom” stories – Bistra – traveler, dancer, writer focused on making people happy.

 

New beginnings in the hutongs

It was a special day. History, present, and future.

Our colleagues from Chinese Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) took us to the place where the foundation started more than 20 years ago. The birthplace of Project Hope.

This traditional hutong courtyard keeps the memories of Chin Dynasty and the atmosphere of dozens of new beginnings. They say this place brings luck to people when it comes to a new beginning.

 

Let’s see what it will bring to us!

The first courtyard is now a nice shared space cafe where you can organize meetings or work with your partners in a cozy atmosphere. We were discussing the future surrounded by crystals and traditional Chinese interior in the background!

The area is full of history and tourists. Hutongs are not only the place where royalties used to live. Hutongs area accommodates art life, traditions, hundreds of people in its hundreds of bright shiny corners. Their restaurants accommodated our diverse CYDF – SAP team after another very productive meeting.

 

Working on a new project with one of the biggest foundations in China seems to be less of a challenge as soon as we all sit at the table and conduct an honest dialog. Our international consulting team gets better and better at understanding the pain points of our client and giving more and more precise feedback while developing the business plan for their new project.

Let the journey take you to  Istanbul - the road to Bali

 

We experienced the cradle of Project Hope, let’s see if this will be the cradle of another project of that magnitude!

 

Hutongs in Beijing China
The pink sunset in the hutong streets…

 

CYDF headquarters in the hutongs area in Beijing
This used to be the headquarters of China Youth Development Foundation, the place the foundation was started.

 

A home to many new beginnings
A home to many new beginnings

 

Grab a cup of tea and meet your partners in the courtyard.
Grab a cup of tea and meet your partners in the courtyard.

 

Changing the office atmosphere is always a good idea
Changing the office atmosphere is always a good idea. Business meeting with some tea – perfect!

 

Old crystals surrounded us in this tiny room where huge ideas were discussed
Old crystals surrounded us in this tiny room where huge ideas were discussed.

 

To end the table-sitting-working-meeting marathon we had dinner in a western-style restaurants where our Chinese friends demonstrated their eating with forks and knives skills.
To end the table-sitting-working-meeting marathon we had dinner in a western-style restaurant where our Chinese friends demonstrated their eating with forks and knives skills. Great job! And we have some more work to do about eating with sticks…

 

Little swans with big dreams

A Saturday that’s worth millions! A day full of emotions and new friends! SAP organized for us a visit to the Little Swan Migrant School which evolved to a fun day with very lovely children.
Have you ever thought that you can have friends without being able to speak the same language? Have you ever imagined a masterpiece on a school campus wall?
We painted, we played, we shared our dreams.

At least for a couple of hours, everyone was far away from their problems, their pain, their emptiness. We wanted to better understand migrant children whose parents moved to work to Beijing to survive the economic gap between rural to city areas. The charity was not our motivator at all.

We spent quality time with purest souls on the planet. They may have not had the luck of spending time with their parents but hopefully, they took pieces of us.

Their smiles inspired us and let’s hope they got inspired by our energy.

 

 

Need fresh air? Produce some!

Well, we just can’t win the war with the pollution. But can we win a battle? Should we give up and live under the dome? Of course not! If planting a tree seems very small and insufficient, then plant a dozen of trees!

That is exactly what China Youth Development Foundation, family and friends did on a not-so-sunny Saturday near the city of Zhangjiakoy. We were so eager to work that they had to stop us from planting too many pine trees.
By the way, here is some good advice on how to use less plastic in our travels.

Tree planting in China

Tree planting in China

Tree planting in China

We were invited to contribute to the environment by our client CYDF. They managed to organize a huge group of volunteers to travel for more than 2 hours away from Beijing and not only plant trees, but also have fun with their families and friends.
The media coverage was not bad at all. We made it to the news…again!

Tree planting in China

Tree planting in China
What would be your time capsule message?

 

Tree planting in China

To finalize that out-of-the-big-city day we climbed the Jiming mountain – a lonely mountain that received its name because the sound of it resembled the crowing of a rooster.
What makes it a special place is the rewarding view if you manage to climb hundreds of stairs leading to it. The more you climb the better contrasting views get revealed. The industrial city of Zhangjiakoy and the coexistence of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.
Only Jiming mountain knows the secrets of combining peaceful songs from above with busy streets from below.
Jiming mountain in China
Even the most passionate climbers need a break.

Jiming mountain in China

Jiming mountain in China
Shrines and temples, and steps
Jiming mountain in China
Mesmerizing views from the spiritual mountains towards the industrialized city

 

 

Our little green pine trees will wing the battle with the grey air! Hope that my time capsule message to my 5 years older me will come true!

 

 

Make sure you continue reading to learn about the contribution to CYDF, the response from the organization and how things ended up with the Social Sabbatical experience in China. Check this amazing article on responsible travel and ethical volunteering to get some inspiration and start your meaningful journey!

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