Three Bearden students volunteer at summer camp in China


Bearden senior Elizabeth Steimer plays basketball with some of the kids at the summer camp.

Allie Gruszkiewicz, News Editor

On his phone, senior Matt Stock has a photograph of a Chinese teenager smiling and wearing a false mustache. His name is Mark, and he attends a summer camp in Beijing. Mark is one of China’s over 50,000,000 “left-behind children.”

This summer, Stock and seniors Elizabeth Steimer and Veronica Allen went to Beijing to help at a summer camp for children and teenagers in China.

The camp was for “left-behind” children, those whose parents go to another town to find work, leaving them in their hometown. Because the Chinese government only pays for a kid’s education in the place they were born, this leaves these families in a difficult situation.

“The kids either have to find a house in their hometown, find relatives that they have, or they live on the streets while they go to school,” Stock said.

At the summer camp, Stock, Steimer, and Allen taught basketball lessons, music, and crafts as well as English courses. Allen worked with kids age 3 to 15 and migrant parents, and Stock and Steimer worked with teenagers the week after.

Steimer wanted to work with teenagers because she had done a refugee ministry previously with her church. After Allen heard about the program at her church from previous years, she was interested in going herself.

“I think seeing the interaction between the kids and their parents was a really valuable experience and it made me appreciate my family a whole lot more,” Allen said.

While Steimer and Stock taught their translator Southern slang, the Bearden students experienced some of the ins and outs of Chinese culture. They noticed that Chinese Pizza Hut is a nice restaurant for a date, that men walked around with their shirt bottoms tied up, and that “bring-your-own-toilet-paper” became the motto for the trip.

“This trip was unique to me in the way that it completely dunked me into the culture,” Allen said. “The squatty potties, the language, the food, the 12-hour time change, everything was different.”

Steimer enjoyed the area surrounding the camp. They were able to hike along isolated parts of the Great Wall and “marvel at the creation.”

Coming home from the trip, Stock, Steimer, and Allen gained perspective on a completely different culture.

“I just came back really grateful for my family,” Steimer said. “When we were over there, I would often get homesick, but then I would get even more sad for the kids because they don’t have a home to miss.”