“Returning to the Land of Their Birth”
Fran and Tom Gualtieri are committed to exposing their three daughters – Nora, Geni and Dia – to all aspects of the country of their birth. In 2012, and again in 2013, the family volunteered together in Kunming, China to teach conversational skills to Chinese English teachers. They believe person-to-person service is the best way to truly understand and appreciate another culture. This is their story:
“With three adopted children from China, I have a special interest in Asian culture, ” says Fran. “As a mom of six children, I feel it’s important to model for my children how important it is to give back to society a measure of what time, talent and treasure that has been given to you.”
The first girl they adopted was Geni in 1996 – and although they encountered several obstacles while getting to Guangzhou City for the adoption, they were determined after meeting their one-year-old daughter, that they would adopt more children. Nora was adopted from Shenzhen City at the age of 5, and Dia was 4 when she left Chongqing to join the Gualtieri family. Until their return to China in 2012 with Global Volunteers, the daughters had not seen their birth land after their adoptions.
Each were paired up to teach in the classrooms with their parents or team-taught with another volunteer. They focused on the “finer points” the language, emphasizing pronunciation and idioms. The conversation groups met in the mornings, mostly, with the afternoons reserved for special activities with the teachers.
“They did a great job reaching out of their comfort zone and facing the challenge of teaching English to the Chinese English teachers, ” said China Country Manager Wang Baoli. “Their story of being adopted and returning to China to volunteer inspired many of the Chinese teachers. They also brought a lot of fun camp songs, dances and games to the Chinese teachers that the adult volunteer could not contribute. The Chinese English teachers said the games they learned from the girls would be very useful in their own teaching.”
Geni and her father Tom taught together during the first week of the program, then she and Nora team-taught the second week. Dia – the youngest – was in great demand in the classrooms. She taught along with another volunteer for the first week, but in the second week, she was the “main instructor” with her sister Geni.
“Dia was very good at coming up with teaching activities and getting the students involved. The Chinese teachers were very impressed with her skills and enjoyed participating in the fun class activities. They also learned a lot from her about American middle schools, ” said Baoli.
Meanwhile, mother Fran engaged Dia in her class of 19 elementary school English teachers at the Kunming Teachers Training Center. She said she felt very comfortable in the classroom because of her experience working with diverse groups as a hospital administrator. Fran is also a member of Triangle Family of Chinese Children in North Carolina, a non-profit which provides social, educational, cultural and informational support for families with adopted children from China. “I believe many of the families of adopted Chinese children should join the Global Volunteers program because of the authentic personal connection it provides, ” said Fran. “I’d welcome anyone who would like to learn about our family’s experience – I encourage you to participate as a volunteer in China.”