ST. PAUL, Minn. - A kaleidoscope of confetti, brass bands, bright banners and smiling schoolchildren greeted 83 volunteers - 81 Americans, a British citizen and a South African - who traveled to Xi'an (pronounced SHE-awn), China, May 7-22 to teach English and celebrate a milestone in international people-to-people friendship.
Marty Lemke of Ocean Park and her grown son, David Lemke, 36, of Portland were part of this Global Volunteers contingent celebrating the organization's 100th volunteer team to serve in China since 1996. To mark the occasion, Global Volunteers' host partner, the Sino-American Society, threw a two-week party that included a "welcome to the city" at Xi'an's ancient wall, a film premiere, anniversary book release and photo exhibit chronicling the work of volunteers in China.
Marty Lemke returned home deeply moved. "My service trip to Xi'an has filled my head, my heart and all my senses. I wonder if I can ever capture it all. But there is one great certainty - the only way to peace in this world is one-to-one friendships. Quoting David, 'Waging pre-emptive peace is the way,'" said Lemke.
Son David, 36, an advertising professional in Portland, adds: "Traveling as a volunteer is unlike any other cultural experience I've ever had. Working in a community, compared to simply visiting a community, provides an infinitely richer cultural experience than what I am used to."
Now in its 20th year, Global Volunteers is a U.S. nonprofit organization that offers short-term service opportunities in 20 countries around the world. Marty Lemke is a member of the organization's board of directors and has served as a volunteer team leader for several projects.
Amid all the festivities, the volunteers faithfully arose each morning to carry out their assignment - teaching English in 18 elementary, secondary and university classrooms in Xi'an, which is known as a center for learning and culture in China.
The city was the seat of 13 of China's first 16 dynasties and the origination point of the famous Silk Road, an ancient trade route that stretched all the way to Europe. It is also known for the nearby discovery of the world-famous terra-cotta warriors.
Since 1996, when it became the first organization of its type to be invited into Chinese schools, Global Volunteers has forged its own "silk road" of service and friendship between the United States and China. Working with the Sino-American Society of Xi'an, Global Volunteers has fielded over 1,100 volunteers to Shaanxi Province. Volunteer teams also are helping to build a state-of-the-art primary school in the village of An Shang in Shaanxi Province. During their stay, Team 100 participants spent a day traveling to the village to view the half-completed facility.
Based in St. Paul, Minn., Global Volunteers each year coordinates 150 teams of short-term volunteers engaged in community-directed development projects at sites worldwide. Global Volunteers projects range from teaching English to building homes to assisting with medical care. Most projects require no special skills.
Volunteers work at the invitation and under the direction of local host organizations. Participants pay a tax-deductible service program fee ($750 for U.S. sites; $1,500-$3,000 for international sites) that covers all meals, lodging and project expenses; airfare is extra. Contact Global Volunteers at: 800-487-1074 (firstname.lastname@example.org).