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Home Living in China Foreigners in China Foreigners in China Laurie Mackenzie and His V.E.T Program
Laurie Mackenzie and His V.E.T Program
Foreigners in China
Laurie Mackenzie is from Canada. He was a business and MBA professor before retiring and moving to China with his wife five years ago. In 2004, he started up the Volunteer English Teachers program in rural Yangshuo in south-west China, dedicated to helping poor kids learn English. All volunteers in the program teach English for free. But in truth, they get much more than material rewards in return from their kind service. Our reporter Yunfeng has the story.

Eighty-two-year-old Laurie Mackenzie has been living in Yangshuo for five years. About three years ago, the retired professor from Canada initiated the Volunteer English Teachers program, dedicated to placing volunteer teachers in poor schools. There the teachers expose their students to the English language, different cultures and give them the opportunity to mix with people from all around the world.

"I always tell my volunteers … you respect children, and children will respect you."

So what exactly did he see in the children to make him stay on and put his whole heart into helping them?

"Trust. The need for attention. I compare them to sponges. They absorb everything you say or do. You know you've touched these people. The children living in the villages make is so that if you go there, they grab your hearts like that."

Since the program is completely voluntary. Laurie doesn't get any money out of it. His wife is now the bread-winner of the family. More than that, she also helps to train Laurie's volunteers in the basics of Chinese culture and teaching methods.

"One of the first things that we do in a new school, is that we would do a simple exercise like, 'my name is Laurie. What is your name?', and we write it on the board. We say it four or five times. We individually go around the class. They have to say 'my name is…What is your name?' We start very simply like that and then we build up. We are teaching vocabulary and how to use words. "

Laurie loves kids very much and he is happy to see them make progress.

"They are all over me, hugging me, and they talk to me in English. This little girl… I would talk to her with my little bit of Chinese and English, she would just shake her head. Then about four weeks later, she was running across the playground, hugging my leg and saying 'hello Mr Laurie. How are you? I am fine. Thank you.' And then off she went. She wanted to show me that she could speak English. That's beautiful."

Anna Hua is a friend of Laurie's. She helps him to contact schools.

"I am moved by Laurie. He is in his '80s. So I support him one hundred percent. Since I used to teach in rural areas and have contacts with the principals, I will take Laurie and his volunteers to those schools in person. Their program receives positive feedbacks. Normally classes given by foreigners are very vivid, with singing and dancing. Interest is the best teacher. Those students that want to communicate with their foreign teachers in English will study very hard."

With the help of the V.E.T. program, English education in rural areas of Yangshuo has been considerably improved.

"Three of the schools that we go to have the highest standing of English in the district. "

Last year, Laurie's VET team consisted of 400 volunteers, doing 200 classroom sessions. Volunteers are from 19 to 80 years old.

"We have a very low budget right now. We use about 23,000 to 24 000 yuan a year. That covers our operating costs, our accommodation, food and transformation to and from the schools."

Teachers literally get no payment. However, for those who have participated in the program, they consider it a life-changing experience.

"It changes your life. I've had so many volunteers. This summer, I had 21 young ladies from Canada. I asked them to write about their experience. So many of them said 'it changed my life' because they are from rich families. They are used to having everything. And they come to see how somebody else lives, making them realise how spoiled they are. As a matter of fact, three of the group are now changing their majors. And they are going to be teachers, simply because they had that kind of experience. "

Naomi Cullers is a college graduate from the United States, she has been a three-week volunteer for Laurie's program, teaching in Fenglo Primary School in rural Yangshuo.

"I've got to experience China, not just as a tourist, but being more involved in the community. I have so many memories to take with me for the rest of my life, just to know that I've helped and lived their lives. They've also taught me different things. It's a great experience. I would never not have done this. I would never give it back."

    劳瑞.麦肯易来自于加拿大。在退休之前,他是一个商人,也是一为MBA教授。五年前,他和妻子一起来到了中国。2004年,为了让穷孩子们能够学习英语,他在中国西部城市阳朔发起了志愿英语教师的计划。参与这项计划的志愿者都是免费的。但实际上,在这样的服务中,他们得到的是物质回报无法比拟的。韵风采访了这个故事。

    82岁的劳瑞.麦肯易已经在中国住了5年时间。大概3年前,这位来自加拿大的退休老教授发起了志愿英语教师的活动,旨在为贫困学校输送英语教师。在那里,老师们向孩子们展示英语和不同文化的魅力,让他们有了和世界各地人交流的机会。

    “我总是给志愿者们讲…..你尊重学生,学生才会尊重你.”

     究竟孩子们身上有什么吸引他的地方,让他留下来并且全心投入的帮助他们呢?

    “相信我,是一种关注的需要。我把他们比喻成海绵,他们理解你所有的言行。你知道你已经触动了那些人,山村里的孩子尤其是那样,所以一到那里,你马上就会被吸引。”

    因为这项计划是免费的,劳瑞没有赚任何钱。他妻子为家庭提供经济来源,并且还帮忙教授劳瑞的志愿者中国文化以及教学方法的基础知识。

    我们刚开始要在一所新的学校中要做的其中一件事就是做这样的练习,“我的名字叫劳瑞,你的名字叫什么?”然后我们把这句话写到黑板上。重复四、五遍之后,我们每个人走到班级中去,要他们学着说’我的名字是….你的名字是什么?’我们从这样最简单的开始,然后开始增加难度。开始教授新词和这些词的使用方法。

    劳瑞非常喜欢孩子们而且非常高兴看到他们的进步。

    “他们围在我旁边,拥抱我,然后用英语跟我说话。有一个小女孩…..我用仅会的一点中文和英语和她说话是,她只会摇摇头。四周之后,她跑过操场,过来抱着我的腿,说“你好,劳瑞先生,你感觉怎么样,我很好,谢谢你”然后就跑开了。她想向我展示她学会说英语了。感觉太美了。”

    安娜.华是劳瑞的一个朋友,是她帮劳瑞联系的学校。

    我被劳瑞感动了。他已经80高龄了。所以我百分百支持他。我在农村地区教过学,和校长们也有联系,我会以私交的方式把劳瑞和他的志愿者带到学校去。他的计划受到良好的反馈。通常外国人教授的课程都非常的活泼,有歌有舞。兴趣是最好的老师。那些想与外国老师交流的学生学习会非常努力。

    在VET计划的帮助下,在阳朔乡村地区的英语教授活动大大的改善了。我们所去的三所学校在地区上英语水平是最高的。去年,劳瑞的有200名志愿者的VET团队,做了200期活动,他们年龄跨度很到,从19到80岁的都有。我们的预算金额很少,每年可能要用23000到24000元。包括我们的管理费,食宿费和往返学校的交通费用。

    准确的说来,老师们是没有报酬的。但是,对于那些参与进来的志愿者来说,他们都觉得是改变他们一生的经验。

    “这项计划改变了我的生活。我已经有了很多志愿者。这个夏天,加拿大有来了21位年轻的女士。我让她们写写她们的感受。她们中许多人都说‘它改变了我的生活。’因为她们都来自于富裕的家庭。曾经拥有一切。当她们看到其他人是怎么生活的时候,才知道自己被惯坏了。实际上,小组中有三个人已经改变了她们的专业。她们准备去当老师,就是因为有这次的经验。”

    劳米.库勒是一位美国大学生,来劳瑞的计划当志愿者已经三周了,在阳朔峰罗小学教书。

    “我是真正融入大众去体验中国的,而不是仅仅作为一位游客。知道我帮助了他们的生活,这就是值得我一生怀恋的记忆。他们也教会了我许多其他事情。这是一个很棒的经历,我不后悔,也永远不会忘记。”

 

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