By Xiaoman Zhu, Work and Travel Participant Summer 2014

Xiaoman Zhu, Lulu Kong, Ruixun Chen, Junyuan Yi and Qing Dai all participated in CCI Greenheart’s Summer 2014 Work and Travel Program. They were all placed in the same area and volunteered much of their time at the Five Senses Garden in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They all attend Jilin Huaqiao Foreign Languages Institute during the academic year. All were exemplary members of the Greenheart Club during their time in the United States and were therefore awarded a Greenheart Service Grant as a group. They have used this grant to bring joy, warmth and well being to the elderly in their community. The group has formed a Greenheart Club at their university and we can’t wait to see what project they do next! Read about their “Our Grandparents” project below and check out the photos and video they made!

Once I saw an advertisement for Dior perfume on the internet, and it said, “ What makes women beautiful? It is happiness and energy”. I’ve found this also to be true for the elderly. First, I want to show you a photo of an old man smiling with blue teeth in the nursing home after he ate the cake we had brought for him. From this photo you can feel his happiness and vitality.

During this project, I did see lots of different smiles from the elderly and I feel really lucky to have had the chance to help these people in need. The good results come from all-around plain and hard work. From the very beginning, we prepared for the purchase of fruit, cookies and cakes, long wool socks and long thick towels and other articles for daily use. In addition, Lulu designed our Hua Qiao Greenheart Club hoodies and our special flag. We had to negotiate with the nursing home’s administration. They were hesitant to have many volunteers in the nursing home at one time because they thought it would disrupt the warmth and comfort of the place so we decided to only have five volunteers working at one time.

Each time we went there, we would talk with them and help do some cleaning. The average age of the residents is 75 years old and some are even over 92, but luckily they are able to eat, talk, and walk well. Some of them need a home because they have lost their families, others don’t want to be a burden to their relatives so that they choose to come to the nursing home. They have such unique life stories, which they shared with us. And we also learned some useful life lessons from them. Every time we had to say goodbye, they expressed their thankfulness again and again and told us to focus on our studies. Sometimes we we really felt like our relationship was that of grandparent to grandchild.

Through this project, I not only learned how to work better in a team, but I also realized the most important thing to remember: no matter how others judge you , if you want to do something that makes you happy, just to do it with your heart and soul. I think the best response to our work is their smiles. We witnessed the smiles of the most beautiful senior citizens in the world with the help of our sponsor CCI Greenheart.

We have established the Greenheart Club of Hua Qiao and are trying to attract more members from our college to help us in the wonderful work we do. The photos include the five volunteers in Ji Lin Hua Qiao University of Foreign Languages: Lulu Kong, Xiaoman Zhu, Ruixun Chen, Junyuan Yi, Qing Dai.