The Beginning

They had been volunteering with existing international organizations, but never stepped out to create their own. I had been talking to the team, telling them that they could create projects they could imagine, that they only needed to see what was needed by others. When I first began to say this, what I received was blank stares. They didn't have a clue what was needed, really. They had been raised to do what they were told to do, to follow their teachers and family members. Never were they taught to create. This is a huge deficit in the educational system of China. Students could acquire large amounts of complex information from their teachers, but they were never asked what THEY thought, never encouraged to create anything. Suddenly, here was this woman, from the United States, a bit culturally ignorant at that time, blithely saying, “Well, what do you want to create? You can do ANYTHING that inspires you and is needed.” Of course what I got back was blank stares. But here they were, suddenly being asked to paint all of these other stairwells and they saw for themselves what was needed. They rose to the occasion and created a new program, Light Community, which would allow them to provide a project that student teams could do on the weekends, in the city, on an ongoing basis. Light community has become a tremendous success. Teams of 15-20 students have painted stairwells in the community every other Saturday for 2 years. By the end of 2009, all 7 floors of 22 houses in the community had been painted by these teams and about 250 students from several universities had participated. In the process, the students decided to name their fledgling organization Exidea, which to them means "excellent", "exceptional", and 'exuberant” ideas.

These are the stories of the Chinese students themselves, in their own words. They have also all taken English names which have been used with these stories.

  • Lisa and GraeaeLisa and Graeae
  • DavidDavid
  • GinnyGinny

Graeae's story

People in the village are plain and passionate. They are willing to accept a group of university students who are transmitting the sound outside of the village. I've never experienced that I've been appreciated so much and the intimacy been built in such a short time. It's a feeling of being needed, a feeling of important and a feeling of caring. It's a confirmation, a sense of confidence and a departure of loneliness. People are blaming the world is distant. They don't open their full heart to accept an unacquainted person, a new opinion or a new thing, however in the trip villagers allowed us to enter in their place, where they confront their deepest feelings, becomes a storehouse of all their hopes, all their requirements, all their dreams, and even their unspoken fears. When I was staying with the villagers I felt energetic, easy and happy. All they've done make me recognize that what I was doing centered on what is truly significant to me. I definitely want to make something happen, to make some change. And I got excited about archived a goal, I tried my best, I really have done something. And I was disciplined enough to stick to it. This reorganization urges me to start to explore my own way, a realistic way to dig the trueness, enthusiasm and beautifulness of my life.

The one thing we all need from the villagers and the team members and by far the most important thing in any companionship is trust. I can touch the trust others gave me from the assignment of the task, the cooperation in our work and the communication we did. It's a feeling of safety and I know nothing bad is going to happen when I am with them.

Some people think that it is movies, TV, radio, books, shopping, eating or traveling that drive the loneliness off us. But they are wrong. Only Friends are there to defend us, to support us and to challenge us. I value my friends because they have stuck up for me when others have tried to hurt me, and they have bolstered my self-esteem when I was feeling insecure. I especially love my friends because they hold a mirror up to me and make me look at parts of myself that I sometimes don't want to face. That's what friend does: helps you to change and become a better person. This kind of intimacy is hard to achieve. It takes a lot of willingness from both people, and a lot of trust. How much it was like between us and the villagers.

The trip told me I was good enough that I deserved a chance, that I should have the courage to sing, to laugh, to dance. The trip told me not to care what other people thought, because the trip was a gift for me, a gift that couldn't be bought. And now I want to give the trip what the trip always gave to me—love, friendship, caring, and most important, trust. But how can I do this in ways that equal its. What I want to give the trip is only a simple phrase. It may not seem like very much, but it is in many ways. What I want to give the trip is a simple, kind Thank you.

If a friend is a gift, the very gift one wanted, her joyfulness is opened in a minute. The gift one gives the other is the gift which one has given oneself. It's the best of presents.

At last I want to use the words of our team song to end my writing: let's cheer for ourselves, because we are great. We all have dreams and courage. We all can create a miracle.

David's Story

The experience of being a volunteer really leaves a deep impression and influence on me. I do love it and it surely will be the memory last forever. I learned a lot, experienced a lot and changed a lot during the volunteering.

So one year later, when I think back to it, vivid memories come flooding back, warmth and good feeling and pure delight of it recurs. I love the beautiful quiet scenery of the Yi people village. It is the blue sky, high mountains, green bamboos, bright stars, silent night,singing birds, running brook, all things that made me relieved and forgot these tiny and meaningless things in noisy city. I can just lie down and enjoy the silence of the nature, the simple and pure beauty of nature.

Wonderful scenery is just a part of the volunteering. There are so many happy moments with my teammates and villagers. I can’t forget we named every brick with a funny nick name, which made a sort of boring work so interesting that none of us felt any tired. I can’t forget the last night when we had a party with these kind and warm-hearted villagers. We sang, danced and played games together, and actually I have learned some of their traditional dance named YanHe! These open-hearted enjoyments are so good and unforgettable that I do want to recapture and hold for myself forever.

The most important thing for me during the seven days volunteering is I’ve changed a lot including my initial aim towards the volunteering, my outlook on world. Before the work, I thought I was to help them for they are poor or things like that. However, finally I found myself been helped. People there are so generous, kind, and unselfish. Once I gave two candies to a little girl, and of course I thought, like all children in cities, she would be happy and ate them all. But to my surprise, she gave me one back and said we each had one! I was really touched at that moment. Besides I also remember one night when we had a discussion. Susan asked us a question that is what kind of world do you want to live in. Actually I had never thought of that question before. I always thought world is what it is, we had no choice but to adapt ourselves to it. But that time we all pictured a perfect world in our own mind. We all would like to live in a world of love, kindness, compassion and they do exist and will never die as long as each of us make a small change, from saving every drop of water to greeting everyone with a heartfelt smile, we will live in a better place. I believe the more we experience and appreciate the goodness of life, the more there is to be lived.

Ginny's Story

When I was a freshman, I joined in our Discussion Group (DG) Though we were very new members at that time, they always encouraged us. Hence, from then on, I realized DG is a place in which all participants could express their own thinking freely and learn from each other, and make progress continuously. We get to know the latest current affairs from the hosts each term, we exchange ideas together to deep the issues. We keep learning all these years. Gradually, I started to attend the volunteer activities held by Exidea, from which I obtain the spirit of team-work, and strengthen my willingness to help others. Exidea helps me realizing there are still many many weak people around our community who need our help. We can contribute some energy to help them living a bit better life. What impressed me most is the day we went to celebrate the Children’s Day with those kids in Dexin School . They are much politer than those in so-called famous schools. They cherish all the things around them. Even if you just give them a smile and a hug, they think these are the best presents. Whatever things those kids are doing, they are always standing in a queue and in a good order. With the efforts of both their own and the volunteer teachers, they all do very well in their studies. Anyway, just as the motto of us Exidea goes "everyone can be a volunteer!” yes, we can do it. I believe all of us can do it.

Lisa's Story

Three years ago, on a summer night, a high-school girl who was preparing for her college entrance examination suddenly told her friend that she wanted to engage in charity in the future. Her friend told her it must be an idealistic dream which was hard to realize. Hardly had she ever imagined her dream would come true in the university. Yes, that’s me, a girl who didn’t know in the world there exist some people called “volunteers” until she entered the university. At first, I just wanted to do something like what people in the Red Cross do, I just knew that seemed to be the so-called “charity”. But in 2008, when I got to know EXIDEA, my life started to change. I heard of the name EXIDEA from Discussion Group which is a free platform provided by EXIDEA for English lovers to practice spoken English, to share different ideas and to deepen their thoughts. I was extremely amazed that the members of EXIDEA are almost all university students. They care about the society, they care about people, and they set up the organization to provide a chance for university students who have the same desire and dreams as they do.

The surprise, like a wind, blows away the dust covering on the box of my dreams. I filled the candidate form, in hope of realizing my dream and experiencing something different. I did gain what I had expected, and far more than that actually. I learned to communicate with people actively and openly, not just wait for some else to talk to me. I learned how to stimulate pleasant and efficient cooperation with team members, and I realized as long as you have dreams you can strive to achieve them. The best present I receive from EXIDEA is the relationship with people in the village. I’ve never imagined I can establish a kind of family relation with totally strangers in seven days. They are friendly and warm, they are optimistic and diligent, they are open to new things and are eager to learn. Every morning when we walked on the road, every villager, no matter whether we are familiar or not, would greet us with kind smile. Every time when we volunteers had meals together, the grannies in the village would bring their home-made food for us, and the beautiful sisters always helped us with our meals. Busy as they were, they always spent some time with us, chatting, singing, and dancing.

As a girl who is also from a village, I’ve never had this kind of feeling in my hometown. Though our neighborhoods are all relatives, people can never open their hearts, they often quarrel and fight for money, for interests, which made, more often than not, doubt the so-called good relationship. But in this village, people are just like one family, we cared about each other, and we talk sincerely to each other.

What is the value of village? I’d like to put aside the economic development. I think the real value lies in that people in the village unite together to strive for the development of the whole group, instead of solely considering self-interest. They are interrelated and dependent. It’s said the world is a global village. If the world becomes a global village in the real sense, there will be more peace and seldom wars, more harmony and few conflicts, more happy and less sorrow. I think that day will definitely come!