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Learn more about serving as an educator at Concordia International School Shanghai.

Consider a service learning trip to a CWEF project site. Support educational projects in China through CWEF.

other STF links

“What Did I Get Myself Into?” (Feature)

Auditory Training Using Musical Instruments (ECEnet)

All Kids are Geniuses and Genius Hour Proves It! (ETnet)


LEA is looking for writers

LEA is looking for writers in front-line ministries for articles in future ShapingtheFuture magazine pieces. If you would like to write, contact ed.grube@lea.org (do not reply to this publication) to express and discuss your interests.


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Learning is a Treasure

Over the millennia, many Chinese proverbs have captured the cultural value and impact of education. The platform of education provides countless opportunities to transform lives. Concordia International School Shanghai, founded in 1998, and the later formation of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation (CWEF), produced a partnership through which foreigners could work together with local Chinese in community development efforts—mainly through education and health projects.

If you are planning for a year, plant rice;
If you are planning for a decade, plant a tree;
If you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.
– Chinese Proverb

Self-admittedly, Sunny* is like a starfish. This young Chinese woman exemplifies the well-known story of a starfish that was found and thrown back into the sea. In her youth, receiving a CWEF high school scholarship was the first step in a life-changing journey of experiencing God’s love and serving others.

“I felt valuable. It opened my mind to see that people wanted to help me.”Two girls learning in ChinaSeven years ago, Sunny was identified by her school as a student with academic potential but lacking the financial resources to pay tuition for the final three years of high school. “I had low self-esteem, and I was afraid to ask my mom for school fees since she worked so hard to support three kids. My family was poor at the time, and I thought my brothers’ education was a priority over mine,” shared Sunny. After a home study by CWEF, Sunny was awarded a high school scholarship. “The CWEF staff told me that I was chosen by God to receive this support. I was so relieved. I felt valuable. It opened my mind to see that people wanted to help me.”

A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark. 
– Chinese Proverb

While Sunny was in high school, she had the opportunity to interact with international students, facilitated by CWEF. Her interest in learning English was piqued. “These types of activities are really valuable for local Chinese students,” Sunny recalls. After three years of sponsorship, she graduated from high school. “When I got good enough grades to go to college, I realized my accomplishment wasn’t just about grades and exams. Relationships are important. CWEF activities helped focus on me as a whole person.”

“I learned how to trust someone who loved me without expecting anything in return…This was new for me.”CWEF’s support of Sunny extended into her university years through a paid internship. “There were three university students, including me, who were paid to help CWEF lead projects for children. The [Chinese] CWEF program leader was a mentor to me. I learned how to trust someone who loved me without expecting anything in return. My childhood was challenging. CWEF scholarships and internships were unconditional. This was new for me,” Sunny remembered.

In 2014, Sunny’s university internship gave her the chance to meet Concordia Shanghai high school students who participated in a CWEF service project in southern China. Many of the elementary school students being served by the project are “left behind” in the village (in the care of grandparents or other family members) while the parents find employment in a distant city. “It was my first time to see so many foreign students at one time!” chuckled Sunny. “The Concordia teachers were so nice and cared for us. I remember the Concordia students carrying kids on their backs, giving them love and care, and teaching them. They got along so well, like siblings.” Sunny helped lead the Concordia Shanghai high school service trips for three years, as her internship serving left-behind children continued to develop.

“Surprisingly, we found that serving others also helps us to heal our own wounds.”As the CWEF program matured, Sunny organized other CWEF scholarship recipients to be volunteers to mentor and serve the left-behind children. The GROW project and program was formed from this work. “We [CWEF scholarship recipients] know how helpful service is. Through the volunteer activity we learn how to love others. Surprisingly, we found that serving others also helps us to heal our own wounds,” said Sunny.

Today, Sunny is a university graduate with a degree in social work. She oversees more than 70 volunteers, who received educational support from CWEF, as the executive director of a newly-formed organization called “Shining Star.” Sunny adds, “The name was chosen by the Concordia Shanghai teachers and students on a service trip in 2016. I remember that Jesus said, ‘I am the Light of the world.’ We got our light from God, so now our life is bright like a shining star to brighten the lives of others in darkness.”

China has instituted new regulations for charity work, which require foreign-registered organizations to partner with a China-based non-governmental organization. Shining Star works in partnership with CWEF to administer the GROW program, which has received significant funding from the Concordia Shanghai community. “Through GROW, we want to improve the left-behind kids’ resilience to face difficulty in their lives. We are also strengthening the ability of the volunteers to do community service in the future,” shares Sunny.

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.– Chinese Proverb

peace with children in China“Before I met CWEF staff, my goal was to be rich. At first, the approval of others helped me feel confident. Now I realize that the internship helped me grow and learn. I experienced unconditional love. Through these relationships I came to know God and His love,” testified Sunny.

The collaboration of CWEF, Concordia Shanghai, and Shining Star has a bright future. Through educational projects, these partners aim to share the love they receive with others. “There are many ways in which Shining Star can receive help—we are still young and lack professional experience. By learning different teaching models, experiencing creative activities, and through social and emotional support we can help the resilience of kids served by the GROW project.”

“God found me. I can see it’s true. … I’m a very lucky starfish.”Looking back at her life, Sunny is very optimistic for the future. “God found me. I can see it’s true. We are trying our best to overcome all the barriers so that we can support these children. I’m a very lucky starfish,” Sunny says while smiling.

Karin L. Semler has lived in Shanghai, China and worked at Concordia International School since 2009. She also serves on the board of counsellors for CWEF.

*Not her real name