Fuyang Aids Orphan Salvation Association  Harrison D. Furest

Having arrived in Fuyang in June 2008 after a summer Chinese language intensive in the nearby capital of Anhui province, I cannot imagine having a more welcome reception for myself and several other student volunteers who had come from the US.  The AOS staff and Director Zhang Ying were truly gracious hosts and were more than willing to help and offer advice and resources in the development of our activity planning. I had come to document the activities and outreach to the community provided by AOS through photography, to assist with translation of materials into English, and to conduct a general weekly class incorporating English, music, and just plain old fun at the AOS Activity Center.  Often riding their bicycles from their home villages, the children who attended the center were full of energy, and had true passions and talents ranging from basketball, to English, to visual arts.  Their energy and the spirit of the instructors, many of them volunteers, combined to form an atmosphere that made this space special to both the children and to volunteers like myself. The learning experience was by no means a one-way exchange!

In addition to such activities at the AOS's main office and Activity Center, we also accompanied Zhang Ying and staff to a conference and health/lifestyle checkups involving families of HIV positive children. To me, this was an essential aspect of my experience in Fuyang, as it is the drive to maintain communication with and provide opportunities for local communities that, in my view, is so very essential to the overall work of AOS. This of course includes such outreach events within Fuyang's own downtown area as the outdoor tabling event on World AIDS Awareness Day. When not preparing lessons or doing other volunteer work, treating oneself to a quick local speciality of Ge La Tiao spicy peanut noodles comes highly recommended.

Perhaps more than anything else, volunteering with Fuyang's AOS has taught me to listen. It is one thing to be able to construct a plan and put it into action, though it is quite another to build a plan around the needs of others, to truly listen and cooperate, not assume and dictate.

Harrison D. Fuerst

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