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Daniel's report from IVHQ China

Those of you following our website and social media updates will know that our Executive Director, Daniel Radcliffe, and Claudia Lima have recently been visiting the IVHQ program in China. Here's Daniel's report from the visit...

On Wednesday 30 May, Claudia Lima and I flew into Xi'an to visit the IVHQ China program. As IVHQ staff, one of the perks of our jobs is traveling to visit our programs around the world and I will usually visit 8-10 IVHQ programs every year (as Executive Director I have the benefit of travelling more often than most IVHQ staff, who will on average visit 2-3 countries annually).

The purpose of our visits is to learn more about the programs first-hand to help our volunteers prepare for their trips abroad, to meet with IVHQ volunteers and projects to gather feedback as to how the program is performing and finally to assist our local staff in improving their programs through analysis and recommendations. All of this helps to ensure that IVHQ continues to run the best volunteer abroad programs in the world.

The first three days of our visit were spent traveling to volunteer placements, observing volunteers in action, meeting with local project staff and gathering informal feedback on different aspects of the program. Highlights from these first three days included a visit to see IVHQ volunteer Jeff Mitts on the last day at his placement and a visit to the panda sanctuary two hours from Xi'an. Jeff has been on the IVHQ China program for six months and our visit coincided with his last day at work which was also a celebration for National Children's Day in China. As part of the celebrations, Jeff spoke to over 500 parents from the school where he had been working and they gave thanks for the work he had done during his time in China. The IVHQ Panda Conservation project has been suspended for the past 16 months after the pandas had to be temporarily relocated. However, they are now back at the panda sanctuary and once we work through some accommodation issues, we hope to have this program back up and running before October.

Over the weekend, Claudia and I squeezed in a bit of sightseeing to the Terracotta Warriors and also to the city wall within Xi'an to see the drum and bell towers and to try our hand at bartering for goods in the Muslim Quarter. These are all trips that many IVHQ volunteers are taking during their time on the China program. On Sunday evening, we welcomed over 20 new volunteers onto the program and watched David and his small team perform orientation to the group. Monday was our final day of our visit and it was very busy, with over six hours of meetings with the local team, covering all the important aspects from our trip, looking at areas we can improve as we move forward and making recommendations.

The IVHQ China program is one of the smaller IVHQ programs in regards to volunteer numbers, yet it is one of the strongest in respect to volunteer and project feedback. I am incredibly proud to see the way the program has developed in 18 months (it is also one of our newest programs) and the progress that has been made at a number of placements and institutions where our volunteers work. We look forward to many more happy volunteers and a lot more great work being done by IVHQ volunteers in Xi'an in the coming months. A big thank you to David and his team for their hospitality during our stay. Despite the fact we were incredibly busy, we enjoyed our visit to Xi'an immensely.

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