Interview with Joy Chen


Joy Chen began volunteering with Stepping Stones in March 2010, and is now one of Stepping Stones’ longest serving volunteers. We asked her about her volunteering experience, lessons learnt and her plans for the future. Here is Joy’s story!

‘I joined Stepping Stones following a friend’s recommendation, starting off as an assistant teacher. Over time I was asked to be the main teacher, and eventually I started coordinating the volunteer group. Almost everything was a challenge in the beginning! However, I was lucky to receive useful organizational and teaching tips from staff and colleagues. Currently my main job is coordinating volunteers, which mostly includes organizing classes, teacher assignments and making sure the classes are running smoothly. I also act as a substitute teacher at various sites.

My experience with Stepping Stones has been incredibly positive and rewarding. The kids are so welcoming and enthusiastic! Furthermore, since I have been a volunteer for five years, I truly got to bond with them and watch them grow. My favourite story is of a kid named Jack. When I first started teaching him two years ago, his parents had to force him to come to classes, and he was quite unresponsive and shy. Now, he is a completely different person! He is much more outgoing and eager to speak. He also keeps telling me how much he is looking forward to the next class! It is bonds and memories like this that make my time in Stepping Stones meaningful.

cute JackCute Jack!

As a long-term volunteer, I was recommended by fellow volunteer and Chairman of Stepping Stones’ Board of Directors Nicolas Ly to join the Board as a member. Since 2013, I have been attending Board meetings and involved in all the decisions that the Board made regarding Stepping Stones. I got to know more about how Stepping Stones operated and got to contribute some ideas reflecting the views of volunteers. This was a huge encouragement and opportunity for my personal development!

Of course, I encountered many challenges during my journey. While most kids are generally a pleasure to teach, sometimes there are more difficult ones. I remember struggling to find a way to motivate these kids and to encourage them to join our activities. However, the result was very encouraging. This experience taught me the importance of never giving up. Now that I do more coordinating jobs, I try to pass this experience on to other volunteers, who also feel easily discouraged when they realise that volunteering is not as easy as they imagined!

Stepping Stones has become a second family to me. Stepping Stones provides a very positive environment to work in, where I witness acts of compassion and humanity. I am constantly surrounded by truly kind-hearted people who are genuinely passionate about their mission.

DSC_0193Volunteers buying Christmas gifts for their students

Aside from helping me to acquire professional skills and learning important life lessons such as never giving up, volunteering with Stepping Stones brings greater meaning into my life. Teaching children, even if it feels insignificant at this point in time, definitely has a significant impact on them in the future, as they grow up and start to participate in society. So as long as I am still in Shanghai, I will continue volunteering with Stepping Stones!’