Recent A&M grad ministers in China
When Meredith Wright first heard she’d be working as a service coordinator in China’s Yunnan province, she had to go look at a map.
“I was like, ‘Where is that?’” she laughs.
A recent graduate of Texas A&M, Meredith had spent years preparing herself for a job in Latin America. She’d taken Spanish throughout high school and college and earned a degree in International Relations with a focus on Latin America.
“I even did a focus semester in El Salvador for half a year,” says Meredith, whose previous exposure to Chinese culture came from leading Bible studies and organizing social events for her church’s international community. “So I had only basic knowledge [of Chinese culture].”
An academic at heart, Meredith began researching Yunnan and reading books to prepare herself for what to expect during her one-year volunteer commitment with Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, an NGO (nonprofit government organization) whose mission is to partner with “local communities to identify sources of poverty and implement programs in the areas of education and community health.”
By the time she crossed continents, Meredith knew about basics like the twelve-hour time difference between Texas and Yunnan province. “But the best way I prepared was to tell myself that it was going to be different and not try to figure out how or in what ways it would be different,” says Meredith. “I tried not to assume anything. Because of that, I feel like my adjustment went much more smoothly than [that of] some other people I know.”
Indeed, her ability to adapt proved a strength early on, when Meredith was given her first assignment two days after she entered China.
“When I first arrived, I couldn’t speak any Chinese,” says Meredith, “so I had someone write down my [new] address for myself, thinking that if I got lost, at least I could get home.”
As a service coordinator, Meredith oversees planning and logistics for Concordia’s projects in Yunnan province, such as building water filtration and collection systems in Chinese villages, teaching villagers about proper tooth care and the importance of hand washing, and teaching English in Chinese schools. Since it’s a volunteer position, Meredith lives off fundraising efforts and living stipends.
“Our work is showing Christ’s love through action,” says Meredith, who at any given time can be found wearing a cross necklace. “Some villages can’t even plant their own crops because they don’t have the water or resources to do it.”
To date, Meredith has helped with projects in ten different Yunnan villages, working long days building trenches, laying pipes, and sharing her faith with those who ask. The work has made such an impact on Meredith and on those she’s helped that she chose to re-up her one-year contract.
“Just the experience of getting to meet all of these different people and take part in their lives is really a blessing,” says Meredith. She now regularly carries on conversations with Chinese government officials and villagers about Concordia’s service projects. “We’re required to take only enough [Chinese language classes] to use on the job, but I’m continuing to study for as long as I can. I feel like it’s an incredible opportunity to improve myself and be more effective at my job.”
Meredith hopes to continue work in the planning and logistics realm when she returns to Georgetown at the end of 2013. “I’m not sure what sector of society that would be in yet—whether that’s corporate America or the church or another NGO, but I enjoy what I do now. And I’d like to find a way to continue that.”
For more information about the Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, visit www.cwef.org.hk.