[Student Essay] Chinese Culture Community: Service in Action

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[Student Essay] Chinese Culture Community: Service in Action

Haonan Liu, Grade 11  
Studying in an international school in Korea for years as Chinese students, many of us have realized the importance of keeping our identity while assimilating to local Korean culture. The mission of the Chinese Culture Community since it was founded 2 years ago has been to create a platform for Chinese students, across grade levels, to communicate and collaborate in their mother tongue at a school with predominantly Korean and English speakers. We hoped to generate Chinese students’ interest, understanding and participation in our culture while they are spending the majority of their time in another country.  
To help young third culture kids to form or maintain their cultural identity and ultimately bring a sense of belonging, our goal is to design and organize engaging activities. Not only do members of the cultural community learn about Chinese traditions and cultures that were developed through history, but are also encouraged to reflect on the strengths and limitations of tradition, and therefore, critically view current cultural affairs. For instance, we held a debate on localizing foreign food, and researched traditional and renewed clothing styles that tackle the issues of body shape shaming and the feminism ideology embedded with the changing trend in clothes. Moreover, we have also learned about plants and flowers which have culturally symbolic meanings and celebrated the Lunar New Year together through handcrafts activity. As leaders, we also maintained a close relationship with the CASE supervisor, Ms.Yujia Bai, who is also the Chinese language and literature teacher for Junior and Middle School students.  
In the first unit where we explored traditional clothes and accessories, club members purchased basic materials and creatively assembled such pieces into exquisite hairpins and earrings. Later, satisfied with the quality of products, we came up with the idea of selling accessories we made by hand in a fundraising event because it would be a great combination of culture and community service.  
In Branksome Hall Asia, an international school for girls, while being empowered and informed, we are also taught about the existing gender inequality and challenges women are still facing in modern society. Therefore, we thought that we should put effort into supporting these young women and encouraging change in some outdated cultural ideologies.  
After a long discussion with co-leaders and Ms. Bai, we decided to donate the money raised to a shelter for single Korean mothers to demonstrate our assimilation and support to the local community where we spend more time than our motherland every year. It is crucial to point out that this CASE wasn't founded for isolating an ethnic group from the large Branksome Hall community, nor offending other cultures. This was stated clearly in the introductory session for every term when new members join.  
Specifically, we chose KUMFA (Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association) that aim to bring welfare and reduce discrimination for unwed mothers and their children. In many Asian countries that have been a patriarchal society, the chastity of women was highly valued and marriage became the only appropriate way for women to give birth and raise children. Therefore, those who became mothers without getting married encounter a significant discrimination, and growing up in such an unfriendly environment, their innocent children tend to struggle from prejudice and isolation in school. More practically, gender pay gaps in the workforce is also a hot potato that leads the unwed into economic disadvantage. Single mothers who have to take care of their children and earn for their living at the same time are more prone to suffer from financial problems.  
With the support of our supervisor, we spent the Term 2 of CASE to prepare and organize the fundraising events. There were 20 Chinese students from Grade 7 to Grade 11 proactively participating in the preparation and the final selling process, each responsible for specific roles.  
After making ancient style earrings and hairpins by hand, we held a fundraising event on campus for three days. We chose to do this in March, the international women’s month, to show our active participation in world gender issues and promoting equality. By the end, we received significant support from our school community, much more than we expected. Students, teachers, and staff came to buy products, and generously gave us encouragement and inspiring words.  
This experience of celebrating our own Chinese culture as well as our adopted Korean culture, has provided us with the opportunity to integrate with our new community. We hope this experience has been as beneficial for others as it has been for us.  
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