This is my last week in Shanghai, and I am so glad to have been able to been here for the past ten weeks. I am quite tired though, so I will be grateful to have a little bit of a break before I return to Houston for O-Week.
However, as I wrap up, one question has kept coming to mind. What is ethical service is supposed to mean? I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been finishing up my report for Collective Responsibility, since part of my report focuses on this topic.
For migrant children, one important factor that affects the quality of their education is the lack of good mentorship. Volunteers from great non-profits like HandsOn Shanghai and Stepping Stones go to schools regularly to teach different classes, but I’ve witnessed that there is no way yet for volunteers to become mentors for these children. A lot of volunteers just go for a hour or two per week to teach and do not often have a more prolonged relationship with the kids.
Now, some volunteers may not want to do more, and I don’t think it’s practical to expect volunteers to want to do more. Some may think that they’ve been a good person and volunteered to help disadvantaged kids, and that makes them feel good. Others may feel that they don’t have the time to do more. But I do believe that there are some people who truly want to see educational disparities decrease and are willing to dedicate a few more hours every week to something they find meaningful.
This is not saying that I believe that volunteers are not serving ethically. Both HandsOn and Stepping Stones hold mandatory training sessions that are very comprehensive. They ensure that their volunteers have a context to the social issues that they are helping to confront. They also protect the privacy of the communities they serve and teach their volunteers to be mindful of what pictures they take and what they post on social media.
However, I do believe that there is room for new non-profits to focus on mentoring programs in China’s largest cities. I think that this is another type of ethical service that is severely lacking in the scope of migrant children. I think it is just as valuable as volunteering to teach, so that migrant children can see more possibilities for their own futures.