All you need is a backpack—and a sense of adventure!
Highlights from a ME to WE Trip to Rural China
It’s an awe-inspiring journey, an incredible adventure—and completely unlike any other ME to WE Trip. Every day brings new and exciting experiences and a chance to explore one of the world’s richest cultures. Meet families in a Free The Children partner community to learn firsthand about the issues that impact their lives, then work side-by-side on a project that’s helping empower people to break the cycle of poverty, whether it’s laying the bricks to build a school kitchen or painting a brand-new classroom.
To find out more about our rural China trips, we chatted with Breanna—one of our Youth Engagement Team members and trip facilitators who also spent eight months living in China. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
What’s it like when you first arrive at one of our partner communities?
Gufubao, in Hebei province, is one of the communities you’ll probably visit. First of all, the scenery is stunning! Gufubao is in a big valley, with big mountains around it. You can see storms coming in from the distance, and they’ll hit the mountains but they’ll never come into the valley. So you see these big clouds come in, you see rain and hear thunder, but it never actually comes to you.
The people are so welcoming too—the headmaster of the school is the first person you’ll see to greet you. We’ve partnered with that community for so long, and it’s amazing to see the school and everything established there, and to see the end goal of what Free The Children’s all about.
Tell us more about the kids you’ll meet in the community!
The kids are so active and high-energy; they’re so happy to have you there. On your trip you’ll get the chance to teach an English lesson, teaching basic words like rabbit, cat, and dog. The best part is when you see people go from standing at the front of the classroom to sitting at the desks with the students and working with them individually.
What’s something that makes trips to China really unique?
You get to see so much of the country, going from the north to the south border—and each area has a completely different culture, with different dialects, mannerisms and traditional foods. You start in Beijing, which is really metropolitan so you see the hustle and bustle of the city. Once you leave the border of Beijing, it’s completely rural. In Gufubao, you’re in the mountains, with beautiful scenery and very open spaces. Then you take the night train to Shaolin in the south, and you see all the bamboo forest scenery.
In Gufubao you’ll also get to go on a mountain hike, which is a really cool way to learn about the nature there, and see another perspective. You’ll see the mountain springs that bring water to taps in the community, and see how it’s all connected.
What are some of the issues you’ll see and explore?
Definitely the difference between urban and rural—and the age gap that causes. To access secondary school, kids have to go to boarding school. You don’t really see anyone over the age of 10 and under 30. It’s hard to find jobs, and sometimes the farming industry isn’t good enough, so parents have to go to the city to find better work and leave their kids with grandparents.
You don’t really see poverty in big cities like Beijing at all, it’s all in the rural areas. That’s really interesting to see. There are also the environmental issues. Looking at Beijing, it’s kind of a realistic view of where our countries and cities could end up being if we don’t act on it now, because we don’t have as high of a population right now compared to them. In Beijing you’ll feel the smog in your lungs and see it on your clothes, and then you go into a rural area and it’s completely blue skies. It’s sad to see that kids in the city have to miss out on a sunny, blue sky day, or might not be able to run around at a park. I think that’s a really good thing to bring back home as a participant on a trip—to appreciate your home life and your environment.
What’s your favourite thing about China?
I really enjoy how everything has a meaning. Chinese characters are their basic language, but each character is broken down into so much more of a deeper meaning than just a syllable of a word. There’s so much complexity to the culture that I really admire. It goes back so many years, and there’s so much deep-rooted history that’s rich from so many centuries.
And finally—tell us about the food in China!
It’s amazing! I didn’t even realize how many different types of Chinese food there were until I lived there. You’re not going to get chicken balls—and the sweet and sour sauce is way better there! The flavours are endless, and there are so many delicacies to try. The lifestyle of eating is also really cool, because it’s all communal, everything’s in the centre and you share it. That’s how you socialize in China, is you go out and eat. I think it’s a really great way for travellers to bond with each other, because every night, you’re always with each other for dinner at these close-knit, circle tables.
Ready to start your adventure to China? Learn more and book your trip here!
If you’re travelling as a school, learn more about our school and group trips here.