"When I walked into Huiling on my first day of work, my life changed completely. I had volunteered in America at special education schools during high school and tutored at inner city schools in college and had been challenged by both, yet nothing prepared me for Huiling. Anyone can sense the passion and the drive of the teachers within 5 minutes of being there; they know they face an uphill battle academically, socially, and emotionally in their work, and yet the challenge invigorates them. Huiling is an anomaly in China, where special education is not understood and volunteering is practically non-existent; Huiling believes that its students can and deserve to live as any other human should and is almost 100% dependent on volunteer support to survive, whether it is as a teacher or through financial assistance. Teachers are working 5 days a week, whether it is in the classroom or in student housing, planning the next week's training items, or going out of their way to take students into their homes when there is no where else to go. They understand the students in a way that parents, many of whom divorce or leave their child to friends out of shame or disappointment, friends, and the community do not – special education thrives when the student is not seen as unusual or challenging, but extraordinary and valued for who they are, not who they will become. Maybe that's the reason why, when you walk into Huiling, you only here laughter, music, and gleeful shouting of the students, unburdened by their physical or mental short comings. In their world, those who cannot understand and shun them are not important because they have what any person, Chinese or American, young or old, male or female, desire more than anything and what many people will never find as hard as they may try: unconditional and unfailing love based on who they are, not what they can do.
Working at Huiling was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had a chance to work with some of the wisest and happiest people in a situation that, from the outside looking in, might have seemed hopeless. To be able to insert myself in their lives was such an honor, yet I am even more grateful they have become a permanent part of mine and pray that one day, I will be led back there to become a permanent part of the Huiling family."