Villanova student volunteers in China

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NEWS RELEASEBarb DeGroot, Global Volunteers: 651-407-6132Sohail Zandi: 201-327-4622

Villanova Student Volunteers in Chinese Village

St. Paul, MN (July 15) – International diplomacy isn’t solely the province of dignitaries, chiefs of state or decorated ambassadors. In reality, the most effective global peace talks are waged by ordinary citizens extending their hands in friendship on street corners, in schoolrooms, and open-air markets around the world.

Sohail Zandi of Upper Saddle River, N.J., is one of these individuals. For three weeks in May and June, the 20-year-old college student was part of a Global Volunteers service program in the small farming community of An Shang in Shaanxi Province, China. (A St. Paul, Minnesota-based nonprofit organization, Global Volunteers offers short-term service opportunities in 20 countries.)

During their stay, Zandi and other volunteers gained a rare, insider’s glimpse at daily life in rural China as they shared their English conversational skills with rural Chinese teachers.

They interacted with ordinary Chinese people – the shopkeepers, farmers, homemakers and children. They stayed in the homes of the villagers of An Shang and ate their meals with the local people. In turn, the An Shang residents were able to develop relationships with “real” Westerners – untainted by showbiz or the advertising world.

“I formed great relationships with other team members and I gained great knowledge about life in China – especially village life – through close relationships with teachers who will be lifelong friends,” said Zandi, who attends Villanova University.

“I also learned how fortunate I am,” he added. “Because of this experience, I have rearranged my priorities and values.”

During their stay, the volunteers watched local farmers harvest the wheat crop – all done by hand.

Global Volunteers, which holds special consultative status with the United Nations, sends 15 to 20 teams of volunteers to China each year. Two- or three-week English-teaching programs are available in both Xi’an and An Shang. Specialty programs also are offered for lawyers and healthcare professionals. All projects are initiated and directed by in-country host organizations – in the case of China, the Sino-American Society.

Founded in 1984 by Bud Philbrook and his wife, Michele Gran, Global Volunteers’ goal is to build bridges of understanding and respect between people of diverse cultures. The organization works in 20 countries. Projects range from teaching English to construction to caring for at-risk children. All programs are community-driven. No expertise is required. International programs cost from $1,495 to $2,795, excluding airfare. U.S. programs are $750. Included in the tax-deductible fee are meals, lodging, ground transportation, team leader services and project materials. Call 800-487-1074; [email protected];