Volunteers Supporting Volunteers
From Peace Corps Wiki
Volunteers Supporting Volunteers
|Volunteer(s) Name:||VSV Co-Coordinators|
|Year of project approval:||2009|
|Projects started in The_Peoples_Republic_of_China 2009 (1).|
|Volunteers Supporting Volunteers|
|Projects in The_Peoples_Republic_of_China (2).|
|Professional Peer Support, Volunteers Supporting Volunteers|
|Other Independent Projects by Volunteers (13).|
|Don't see your Project, Add yours!|
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Info about the Volunteers Supporting Volunteers
 For Current Volunteers
 Who We Are
Volunteers Supporting Volunteers (VSV) is a group of China PCVs who make themselves available to speak confidentially with volunteers who may be feeling stress with their assignment, relationships, or daily living in China. We seek to develop a climate of helping among PCVs to ensure that everyone feels supported, everyone has someone to talk to, and everyone understands what resources are available for them.
Our goals are to develop a culture of helping among PCVs in China, provide support for and reflect a diverse corps, and actively reach out to volunteers so they are aware of our network and available mental health resources.
If you are a current volunteer or have been invited to volunteer in China, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns (pcchina.vsv at gmail.com).
 Tips on Staying Happy and Healthy in China
Go out. Talk to people. Find a way to speak Chinese. Make yourself understood. Exercise. Breathe. Do yoga. Meditate. Find a gym. Go running. Find a spot of nature. Use the air and water purifiers. Drink a latte. If the sun comes out, sit in it. Cook. Learn something new. See something new. Get your nails done. Play ping pong. Play basketball. Get a massage. Make a plan with a student. Write in your journal. Call or Skype home. Ask a friend to join you on a walk. Make friends with someone who speaks English. Take a weekend trip. Dance in the park. Call a VSV-er to shoot the breeze or just blurt it all out. Remember you're not alone having a bad day. You'll feel better. Promise.
 Useful Mental Health Links
Mental Health America's 10 Tips for Staying Happy. They say they are for "older" people, but they are good reminders for everybody. 
Basic Yoga Sequences 
Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" always makes things better. 
Do jigsaw puzzles on line. 
Read witty faux news articles. 
Plan a getaway or find out where other PCVs have gons. 
 Cultural Differences and a Diverse Corps
We know that things can be hard or different in China based on general cultural differences as well as who you are and represent individually. VSV believes that the more diverse our volunteer force the stronger we are, and consequently, we want to make sure that everyone feels valued, respected, and heard. As part of our work maintaining a culture of helping among China PCVs, we want to make sure that all PCVs are aware of the diversity of experiences volunteers have in China. We have gathered observations from volunteers and posted the amalgamation of views in the third-person prose below. Furthermore, we compiled some anecdotes from China PCVs. We can also put you in touch with a volunteer who might be facing similar issues as you while serving in China.
 Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
While living with host families, female volunteers may face different expectations with regard to behavior. Host parents may expect female volunteers to return home earlier and ask more questions about a female volunteer’s plans than a male volunteer’s. While the revolution may have elevated the position of women and it is common to see female manual laborers, there seems to be a general glass ceiling, especially in government, and the opinions of women are often not listened to as closely as those of men. Much of the banquet culture in China encourages drinking. Women may face less pressure to drink than men. In general, street crime is not very common. A woman should take normal precautions when out at night or by herself. Check out this link to read more from a female volunteer's perspective.
 Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
Westerners are generally perceived to be white in the eyes of many Chinese. Although, host country nationals recognize that the United States is a diverse country, they are often surprised when they first meet a volunteer of color and may question their “realness”. Asian Americans may be able to visually assimilate in ways that are not often available in the United States, but they may face the same language or cultural difficulties as other volunteers. Volunteers of color, having lived as a minority in the United States, however, may experience less difficulty than a white volunteer when it comes to adapting in a foreign culture.
 Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
Senior volunteers often benefit from the cultural respect offered to older people in China. This manifests itself in being offered a seat on the bus or being sought out as a confidant to your students. Often grandparents are seen caring for their grandchildren and older Chinese women often participate in public dancing and tai chi exercises in public spaces, offering opportunities to connect cross culturally. Some older volunteers find it more difficult to learn Chinese than younger volunteers.
 Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
Host country nationals may stigmatize homosexuals in their community. Notably, Homosocial behavior in China is quite different than in the US, as same sex friends and classmates often cuddle in class and walk more intimately than many Americans. That being said, despite having been “out” in the United States, volunteers may feel pressure to live more “in” than “out” while in China. In the end, this is a decision each volunteer will make for her/his self. Lesbians may be asked questions about boyfriends, marriage, and children (as do all women) more often than in the United States. In major cities, most notably Chengdu, because Peace Corps is headquartered there, a LGBT social scene exists. VSV can put LGBT volunteers in touch with currently or formerly serving LGBT volunteers, and the Peace Corps office can direct volunteers to other local resources.
 Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
China is officially an atheist state and attempts at conversion are illegal. That being said there are a lot of western missionaries in China, and Chinese Christian populations are increasing. Members of a few minorities practice Islam and some people are practicing Buddhists. Most Westerners are assumed to be practicing Christians, which may offer some uncomfortable moments when Christmas rolls around for non-believers, non-practicing Christians, and members of other religious faiths. The Christian church in China has at least three types -- Catholic Christian, Evangelical Christian, and house churches. In large cities it may be easy to find an international service, often in a private home. If you wish to participate in worship services, your school may be a bit nervous and ask you not to take students with you or discuss religion with your students. Unlike in the US, where many things stop or slow down on Sundays, Sunday is just like any other day in China. Consequently, you may be asked to participate in activities on Sundays with more frequency than in the United States.
 Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
Peace Corps deemed all those who have been invited to China to be able to make do in this environment. That being said, China can be a more difficult environment in which to live. Many buildings have stairs and not elevators, and in major cities many large streets have over and underpasses that require walking up and down stairs. Most public places and many volunteer apartments have squat toilets. Bus seats, brooms, countertops, and stools, may cause some discomfort for people larger than the average host country national. Air quality can be bad and skies can be grayer for longer than most Americans are accustomed. The Medical Office and Program staff will work with you to make your experience as comfortable as possible.
 Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Despite the normal stresses and strains of any marriage, serving in the Peace Corps with your partner offers an opportunity to share new experiences with a person who knows you well. Once placed, married couples share an apartment and often teach at the same school site. They benefit from having someone available 24/7 to support and encourage them. Conversely, couples may experience competitiveness or frustration because one person is learning the language or adapting culturally more quickly. Students enjoy the fact that volunteers placed together are a couple, especially as many of them are embarking on or thinking about embarking on their first romantic relationships. Being a married couple may make you more sought after by other couples on the campus, particularly among the teachers. Sometimes, however, being a couple means that the campus community is less worried about you and leaves you alone more, for good or for bad.
 For Invitees
VSV responds to your questions: FAQS from the China Volunteer Perspective
General China FAQs: FAQs about Peace Corps in China
Volunteer Annotations to the PC Packing List: Packing List
 Site Descriptions
Peace Corps has many sites in 4 provinces (Chongqing, Gansu, Guizhou, and Sichuan). Nearly all China PCVs teach university level English and live in college owned apartment buildings that are home to other college workers. Because many schools are building campuses on the periphery of cities, some volunteers live in the city center and commute to their campuses to teach. Others live within walking distance to their classroom buildings in the city center or on the grounds of the campus outside the city limits.
The purpose of these personal descriptions is to give you a general feel of several different sites and how volunteers make their lives there. Generally speaking, foreigners are notable in most sites. This translates into stares, random shouts of "hello", and being called "laowai" as you pass. PCVs receive the same, or very similar, living allowances. This means that those living in larger cities face more temptation and perhaps spend more of their money on entertainment and western amenities.
 Chongqing Province
Fuling: My site placement is in Fuling, Chongqing or more famously referred to as "River Town" via Peter Hessler's award winning novel. Fuling is a great site, the community is very friendly and the staff and students really need you and will do all they can to make you happy and comfortable. That said, it is a small town, and one that was closed off for many years and there is still a lot of dubiety regarding foreigners, which means a lot of stares and curiosity: this is all part of daily life.
Yongchuan: My husband and I teach mostly oral English in Yongchuan, a "small" city of about 300,000. Yongchuan has convenient transportation, lots of developments, and fairly clean air, though sitings of the moon are rare since the sky is most often cloudy. We think being a couple and being our age (67) has helped us make lots of connections in our community, including church and tai ji class. We are non-threatening and approachable; every bus ride is a relational adventure. As all of Chongqing, in the summer it is HOT; the winters are damp and chilly, settling around 40 degrees F. Fresh fruits and vegetables abound; you will love the outdoor markets. Dont' worry about the hot, spicy food; restaurants can cook very tasty non-spicy food on request. Just learn how to say "bu yao la jiao."
 Gansu Province
Zhangye: I live in Zhangye, Gansu, the northernmost assignment. It's a small city of about 250,000 and seems both larger and smaller than that number at different times. I have three awesome sitemates and a lot of amazing scenery. The Gobi Desert, Mati Si (Buddhist mountain temples) and Danxia Di Mao (painted rocks world heritage site) are all within a day's bike ride, albeit some long ones. I teach at the local medical college with one of my sitemates, while the other two volunteers teach at the larger Hexi University. I have had nothing but good experiences here and highly recommend this region. It is remote though and a 27-hour train trip to Chengdu. Money goes further here, but there are far fewer things to spend it on.
Dingxi I am in a small town in Gansu province, teaching at a small college. I have one sitemate. We are the only foreigners here. The air is extremely dry, desert-like. The terrain is very barren. It gets quite cold in the winter,but we do have great heat which gets turned on around November 1. In my town there are no western foods or groceries available at all. There are some western food restaurants and some western food supplies sold in Lanzhou, about two hours away by bus.
 Guizhou Province
Guiyang (贵阳): Guiyang is the capital of Guizhou province in southwest China. About ten volunteers are placed in and around the city. Some live right downtown and can frequent Walmart on a regular basis. Others live a 45 minute bus ride or so away. In Guiyang you can find the basic foreign essentials (butter, coffee shops, Pizza Hut) if you so desire. Some of the volunteers who live in the city have to take buses to their campus outside of the city. Others live and work in the city. Those who live in the suburbs live on college campuses. Everyone lives in apartment buildings with other university/college workers.
Kaili (凯里): Kaili is a small city in rural Guizhou--- close enough to the Guizhou capital of Guiyang that I can travel there and visit with PCVs, but I'm also happy enough here to spend weekends in Kaili with my sitemate or my students. The mountains in the area are gorgeous, and if you travel even just a half hour outside the city you feel like you've traveled back in time: people in rural Guizhou villages still make their own rice-wine, plough their fields with oxen, and celebrate their traditions through singing and dancing.
XingYi: My site mate and I are in a small city in South West Guizhou province, right by the Yunnan border. The weather is comfortable, it is never too hot or too cold. The surrounding country side is gorgeous, we have a place called 10,000 peaks (with mountains that go on for ages) and another place called Maling Gorge (with 100's of waterfalls.) One of my favorite parts of Guizhou is the rich culture. There are about 56 minority groups in China, and 18 have made their home in this province. There are only 3 foreigners in the whole city. That being said, we get a lot of attention. The local people are very curious about us, some of them have never met a foreigner before. The city is located roughly 6 hours from Guiyang, the provincial capital, and isn't as westernized as some other PC China sites. Some staples of westernization, such as American fast-food establishments and supermarkets (read: KFC and Walmart) haven't yet reached the city. A train station allows quick travel to neighboring Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, but as of early 2010 no railway exists to Guiyang. Chengdu is roughly 19-24 hours away by train and bus, dependent on layovers and ticket availability.
 Sichuan Province
NeiJiang: NeiJiang a small city in Sichuan, about 2 hours from Chengdu and Chongqing City. The population is about 500,000 in the downtown area and 6 million in the county. Most of the students come from laborer and farmer families from around SiChuan, and their level ranges, but hovers around average. For me, the size and location worked out well for what I like. My campus is across the river from the downtown area, so its nice to be a little away from the hectic traffic but still close enough to get there whenever I want. My sitemate and I are 2 of the 6 foreigners in the city, so people are generally really curious about us. My school has been with Peace Corps now for several years so we have a good reputation with the staff and the students. There are two volunteers here with one rotating in and out every year, so whoever the new volunteer is has someone who can show them the ropes.
Mianyang: Approximately three hours north of Chengdu (Sichuan province), Mianyang is a medium size (+/-600,000) town that is primarily known for being a center of technical and electronic research/production. The current PCV is placed at the local teacher-training university on the west-side of the town.
Xindu (Suburb of Chengdu): Although my site is technically in Chengdu, it takes a couple hours to get downtown, and in most ways, I'm thankful for this. I was originally thinking I wanted to go to a smaller town, but now I have small town comfort with big city convenience and excitement available on weekends. The best thing about my town in The Village. This is the area right outside the school gate that sells fruit, vegetables, and dozens of kinds of street food from dawn til midnight. There are small convenience stores, clothing shops, restaurants, tea houses, sports stories--and all within the student (and PCV!) budget. I'm the first volunteer at my site, although there are three other foreign teachers here (two Americans, one Russian). The campus is characterized by colossal, grey Soviet-style architecture and traditional Chinese landscaping (think flowering trees and man-made lakes lined with willows and walking paths). The facilities are pretty modern and comfortable (lots of multimedia classrooms available; no white boards though), and the students seem to have more fashionable clothes than I do. Also, my apartment is great: two spacious rooms with fake hard wood floors, an AC/heating unit, small balcony, cute kitchen, washing machine, and Western toilet. In these superficial ways, my site doesn't feel very Peace Corps. However, when I started teaching, I see why this school needs volunteers. It hasn't figured out how to attract quality teachers, and the kids' learning has suffered as a result. In my first year, I already feel like I've made an impact at the school. In fact, there's a rumor another volunteer could be coming this fall... maybe I'll see you then!