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Volunteering in China: One of the many stops in Ann Cope’s global adventure

Ann CopeTo say that the story of business volunteer Ann Cope was interesting would be a huge understatement. First of all, Ann is an extremely successful business woman. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Psychology and a Masters post-graduate degree in Organizational Development. “I have pretty much done every job within human resources. I have led entire organizations in the past and my most recent position was the vice president of Talent Development.”

Ann decided to resign from this position and take a gap year with her daughter; a gap year that includes visiting all seven continents, including Antarctica! “The idea started off as a joke. Taylor and I were chatting about what she may want to do on her gap year and then she mentioned this insane idea. I just thought ‘let’s do it’.”

Ann is well traveled and she has been to China numerous times, but most of her trips were for business. “I wanted to give back and experience something other than traveling from a corporate perspective. I wanted an adventure that involved volunteering across the world.”

China has been Ann and Taylor’s first stop on this global trip and Ann is currently working at British Education in Chengdu. The mother and daughter will also be working with Projects Abroad in Botswana where they will be helping with the Conservation Project, Cape Town where they will help build a community center, and the Galapagos to help out with the Projects Abroad Conservation Project.

Despite what the name suggests, British Education is a business placement and not a teaching placement. It was founded by Mr. William Vanbergen in 2003 who began to help children achieve their goal of attending top schools in Britain. These include schools such as Eton, Wycombe Abbey, Westminster, and Winchester. Since then, British Education rapidly expanded and now the company helps Chinese children attend schools in the USA. The company has not been short of awards, winning the British Business Award’s ‘Most Promising New Business’ and ‘Innovative Product/Service of the Year Award’ in 2009 and ‘The Best Education Service Provider’ in 2010.

One of Ann’s main responsibilities at British Education was to advise and help prepare the students who are going away. “I consulted each student and I made a presentation about what to expect while spending time in a foreign land. My communication skills that I have acquired from years in the field of business have been very useful, because when I spoke with a student I figured out their level of English and spoke to them with the same level, while encouraging them to speak. This is very effective because the students feel comfortable straight away.”

“I think one of the main reasons why British Education needs volunteers is cultural diversity. It is great for these students to speak to people who are often from the places where they want to study. China is quite a closed culture, but opportunities are now opening up, so the volunteers can help teach them a perspective that will be valuable for them when abroad.”

Even after all of Ann’s experience and travel, this trip has enabled her to learn a lot about herself. “I immersed myself in the Chinese culture which was a real eye opener. I am used to travelling on business so it has been invaluable for me to live how the locals live and adapting my lifestyle. It has also been a rewarding experience working with the students and perhaps my most memorable experience was when I successfully communicated and they feel good. It is an amazing feeling witnessing that. Although I’ve managed to appreciate where I come from, my time in China has been one I will never forget.”

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