Victoria Hampton '15 | "Because You Give ..."
Receiving a scholarship to help an underserved population would make sense for a health professions student who wants to change the world by bringing quality health care to underserved populations.
It would be equally beneficial to a faculty member continuing research on the impacts of international sporting events on developing countries.
But it came as a surprise to my professors and peers when I, a creative writing and journalism major, received the Sara Hopkins Powell Scholarship last spring.
The mission I pledged to the scholarship committee was to travel to China for three weeks with my professor, Kathlene Postma, and four other students. Our goal was to inspire some sort of change.
And I can tell you all that I have been changed by this experience.
Before I dive into my China adventures, I have to explain why I wanted to go: I have discovered that the cycle of giving and serving your community starts with storytelling.
My cousin, Cameron, was diagnosed with cancer when he was 6 years old and given a 50 percent chance of survival. Cameron survived cancer and, 11 years later, is a healthy, active teenager. Looking back at Cameron’s treatment, my family shares stories about the outstanding care he received from Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
This story motivated me. Since October 2014, I have worked as a school program volunteer in the hematology/oncology unit at Doernbecher.
My story theory continued to ring true when my creative writing professor, the outstanding, incredible, literary goddess Kathlene Postma, approached me about teaching a Literature in China course, where we would travel to China for three weeks, with an entire week spent at the Fuling Kids orphanage.
She told me all about being a chairwoman for the orphanage, her time teaching in China, adopting two of her daughters from the country, and all of the cultural marvels. Again, storytelling was a motivating factor for me to give my time to a worthy cause.
Our trip itinerary quickly expanded into a week spent teaching English majors at the Southwest University for Minorities in Chengdu, China. We gave presentations on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Jack London, Emily Dickinson and other timeless writers and poets. It’s pretty incredible to talk to students from the other side of the globe about writers I’ve been reading all my life.
From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., we assisted with instruction or gave our own presentations. I have to say, it was exhausting, but it further justified my love of teaching, while allowing me to immerse myself into a whole new culture and a whole new college life.
From the university, we traveled to the orphanage in Fuling, China. This may sound cliche, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of our time there is heartbreak.
The children were well cared for, well clothed and loved by their aunties, or caretakers. But this orphanage was different. The orphanage specializes in children with disabilities, both physical and mental. Many of the children have cerebral palsy or down syndrome. Others have heart conditions, autism or various ailments.
It was a big learning curve for all of us as we played with children, helped instruct in the schoolroom and listened as they showed us their way of life, with a lot of pointing to make up for the language barrier.
Our trip also included the Great Wall of China, which is one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. We went on a trip to the countryside where we hiked through tea farms, which was astoundingly beautiful, and we explored Beijing.
So what did I gain from all of this? A greater sense of humility and compassion. This experience taught me that community knows no geographical bounds. And neither does the desire to serve. Oh, and it lent itself to tons of experiences to write about.
Right now, I’m an editorial assistant at a company in Hillsboro, Ore. I still volunteer every Friday at Doernbecher and have recently joined Write Around Portland, a nonprofit that strives to change the lives of local, underserved populations through the power of writing.
In May 2016, I plan to travel with the International Children’s Network to serve orphan and at-risk children in India, Nepal and the Philippines.
In the future, I’d like to go to graduate school for creative writing with the intention of becoming a professor.
Yet, knowing how unpredictable life is, I’m excited for whatever my next unexpected opportunity may be. All I know for sure is volunteering will stay an important part of my life no matter what I do or where I am.
Pacific is a place where dreams and ideas become realities. I will be forever grateful to the Sara Hopkins Powell Scholarship Committee for giving me the chance to fulfill an unforgettable journey that has changed me as a individual and as a global citizen.
My experience in China is only the beginning of my goals to leave a lasting impact on the lives of underserved children. Thank you for supporting my vision and continuing to support the ambitions of Pacific University students and faculty.
Oh, and don’t underestimate those creative writing majors. We too have big plans to change the world.