Alumni Spotlight: Joy Tang

Joy Tang is from Beijing, China. She is a 20-year-old student in the University of Hong Kong. She loves painting people's portraits, traveling around the world, discovering delicious foods, and playing with pets and children.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with United Planet in Nepal?

Joy: I didn't have any plan for winter break, and didn't want to spend the whole month at home, so I decided to do something meaningful.

I was studying abroad in the USA for only one semester, so I just thought, why not grab the opportunity and make use of the vast amount of NGOs and volunteering organizations there? Then I started my searching and came across United Planet.

As for the destination, I chose Nepal because it is next to China where I'm from, and I've always been dreaming of experiencing the different life and seeing the beautiful scenery there.

Was it difficult to navigate around language barriers?

Joy: Not really. The whole staff at United Planet's partner in Nepal all spoke good English. So did the staff in the orphanage and my host family.

In the orphanage, although the children didn't speak much English, my work was mainly to play with them and teach them simple English, which only required some simple conversation.

With the translation of the orphanage staff and older children, I didn't encounter many language difficulties in the orphanage either. Also, United Planet's local partner organization provided me with a Nepalese lesson, in which I learned some very useful phrases and sentences.

What was the best moment of the entire trip?

The goodbye note and poem Joy received upon leaving the orphanage.

Joy: It was my last day of work in the orphanage.

The children were having judo training, when suddenly a boy named Rajan ran away from the training to his room and came back after a few minutes. He came to me and said:"take this, Ma'am, from the boys".

He handed me a paper flower, a paper butterfly and a letter with poem written by himself: "King love Queen, Queen love Baby, Baby love milk, but we like you. There are many flowers, but rose is the best; Volunteers are many, but you are the Best!"

I was so touched by the farewell gift he gave me that I almost cried. I gave my best love to the children, and it was great to be loved back and needed.

Tell me about one person you met.

Joy: Nirmala is a 14-year-old girl in the orphanage. She does't look very Nepalese. She has beautiful thin Chinese eyes with light brown clear pupils.

Other children often made fun of her non-Nepalese look, and she would fight back: "I AM Nepalese! I was born and raised here!" How I wish she could say "my parents are both Nepalese"!

She loved to talk to me despite her not so good English. She told me about stories of herself and other previous volunteers from different countries, asked me to teach her Chinese characters, showed me stickers of her favorite handsome Korean stars, and asked me to tell her about life in China and the U.S.

Children at the orphanage in Nepal.

Every time I talked about the life outside the orphanage and outside Nepal, her face would light up. I could see the curiosity and yearning in her eyes about the outside world. She didn't remember when and how she was sent to the orphanage.

But when I asked her "Are you happy in this family?" (I didn't dare to say "orphanage" in front of orphans), she smiled and replied: "Yes, very happy."

One day, when we walked down the stairs, she suddenly tuned back to me and said: "I miss my mother and father"; she then walked a few more steps and turned around again, "Although I don't know them, haha."

I felt so sorry when I heard these words and didn't know what I could offer her. On my last day of work, she shyly asked me for my photo, so I didn't hesitate to develop many photos taken during the two weeks.

When she saw the photos, she was so happy that she hugged me tightly. I promised her that I would come back, and I really hope I will keep my word.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Joy: I think it was the people in Nepal. I was surprised to see how peaceful and satisfied Nepalese people were, given their hard living conditions and slow-developing economy.

I admire their kindness and positive value towards life. Having lived a life of modern technology and materialism for 20 years, I felt so refreshed and purified after the two weeks in Nepal.

This experience really changed my values a lot, and I believe this change will help me to be a more loving and hardworking person in the future. Should I encounter any difficulty in the future, I would think of Nepalese people's clear eyes and big smiles, and nothing would be frightening any more.