A Trip to Remember: Volunteering at an Orphange in Xian, China

By Victoria Chen

  • My Experience
  • Photos

Fortunate enough to receive a Change Ambassadors grant through Travelocity’s Travel For Good program, most of my expenses were covered. But I would go back on my own dime in a heartbeat. It’s been a while since my return from my trip to Xi’an, China, and I still ache to return. Two weeks was definitely not enough for me—I easily could see myself spending several months in Xi’an, volunteering and touring the country. CCS provided a wonderful, effortless way of melding tourism with giving back to the local community, and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity.
Throughout my life, most of my travel has consisted of either fast-paced tours which had short stops at multiple destinations or week-long lolls on the beach. I have to admit that before this trip, I never even considered taking time to volunteer on my vacation. I mean, I had places to go, things to see! I volunteered at home, so why go abroad to help out? Or so I thought.

Now after having been able to volunteer in China, I realize how much my trip was enhanced because of the experience. Helping out at an orphanage home with young Chinese infants and toddlers with health conditions gave my time in Xi’an a sense of accomplishment. Normally, as a tourist, I just take from the area–photos, souvenirs, memories—and leave nothing behind. But through CCS, I was allowed to give back to the local community, even if only in a small way.

Working at Starfish Orphanage was both heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. To see these young Chinese children find a new home in a caring environment with plentiful resources was comforting. Many already had, or were scheduled to have, their necessary surgeries for their various conditions, ranging from heart problems to tumor growths. All I had to do was play with the babies, help feed them, and change their diapers. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement.

Every aspect of my stay with the Cross-Cultural Solutions China program was wonderful; I honestly cannot say enough good about my experience there. So often, I think we as tourists go into foreign areas and just take – from the people, from the environment. This was an amazing opportunity to finally give back to the locals – if only just a little.

Honestly, I believe I benefited more from volunteering in China than the orphans I helped. To see the orphans’ faces light up when I walked through the door, to hold them as they slept, and to forever keep those memories in my heart -- how could I imagine my trip to Xi’an to get any better? I can only hope that I will have an opprotunity to return to China and to Starfish. Because goodness knows, that's where my heart is.

Additional Info:

Trip Duration: 2 Weeks
Country: China
When: October 2007
Travel Provider: Cross-Cultural-Solutions
Volunteer Experience Type: Human Services / Education

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