By Soledad Olmeda
From January 27th to February 2nd, Project Pengyou hosted an event for chapters across the nation to celebrate Chinese New Year by paying it forward. This event was called Pay It Forward on Chinese New Year (PIFOCNY) and the purpose was for each respective chapter to “adopt” a school in their community and inspire children to learn about China. The ultimate goal of PIFOCNY is to teach kids to become aware of other cultures, and to teach empathy and respect to them at a young age.
Project Pengyou’s TAMIU Chapter participated by going to Heights Elementary School on January 31st, and were given the fifth grade class of Mrs. Morales Flores. During the presentation, the chapter introduced the organization’s mission which is “to empower and mobilize a new generation of US-China bridge-builders to bring about a world that embraces diverse cultures and shared humanity.” The students were taught about the Chinese New Year celebrations, what foods they eat during these times, traditions, and decorations, and hongbao (red envelopes given to the children by adults that contain money inside)!
The organization members behind this event were Soledad Olmeda, President; Eduardo Castillo, Cultural Coordinator; and Alejandro Villarreal, Treasurer. During the presentation, the organization members shared their own experiences studying abroad in China, and how different their culture is from ours. The students were engaged and asked many questions.
After the presentation, the students had an activity and lecture in which they learned some calligraphy. Eduardo, the cultural coordinator, shared his knowledge in Mandarin and taught the students how to write 福 (fu) which means good luck or fortune, and 鸡 (ji) which means chicken/rooster.
The chapter chose these two symbols because they are frequently seen in China during these festive times, as it is the year of the rooster. The students were given red paper plates to write the characters and create a lucky charm that they could hang anywhere. As a thank you gift for being great students, the kids received hongbaos with candies and stickers inside, chopsticks, and a sticker from the organization.
Project Pengyou TAMIU is very thankful to the staff of Heights Elementary School for participating in this event. They were glad to see that the school is open to having their students learn about world cultures, and allowing them to become global citizens.