Volunteers Supporting Volunteers

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Volunteers Supporting Volunteers
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Project Type(s):

Community Name: Fuling
Country: The_Peoples_Republic_of_China
Volunteer(s) Name: Asia China
Year of project approval: 2009
Project located: yes
Projects started in The_Peoples_Republic_of_China 2009 (1).
Volunteers Supporting Volunteers
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Other Projects in The_Peoples_Republic_of_China (2).
Professional Peer Support, Volunteers Supporting Volunteers
Other Independent Projects by Volunteers (13).
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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).

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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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. Find a gym. Go running. Find a spot of nature. 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 home. Ask a friend to join you on a walk. 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. [1]

Basic Yoga Sequences [2]

Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" always makes things better. [3]

Do jigsaw puzzles on line. [4]

Read witty faux news articles. [5]

For Invitees


VSV responds to your questions: FAQS from the China Volunteer Perspective

General China FAQs: FAQs about Peace Corps in China

Site Descriptions

Peace Corps has many sites in 4 provinces (Chongqing, Gansu, Guizhou, and Sichuan). Not all of them will be described here. The purpose of these personal descriptions is to give you a general feel of several different sites and how volunteers make their lives there.

Click here to read more about China Sites.

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