Reaching Out

Sophomore Wanda Zhan winds top honor in China

Sophomore Wanda Zhan was recently voted one of the Top 10 People of the Year in China for her work in the Sichuan province of China where she taught and played with children affected by the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Nominated by a media outlet, she received over 2 million votes and placed second behind Yao Ming.

The 8.0 earthquake, which killed at least 68,000 people and left millions homeless, had a personal effect on Wanda. In China, Wanda lived in the small government-built boardhouses that served as temporary housing for the survivors who had lost their homes. “A family lived in a Styrofoam house approximately 1/3 of the size of the average classroom in the Irvington P-wing.” Wanda said. “It was very cramped, and bathrooms, showers, and kitchens were located outside. Boardhouses absorb heat, and during the summers, it feels like they are in an oven.”

There, she taught the children English and spent time with them, playing games like ping pong and ring toss with her students in their free time. Her goal, she explained, was to “lessen the children’s pain after the earthquake and distract them by planning fun activities.”

Wanda plans to return next summer to continue her efforts in the Sichuan area. “I can’t wait.” Wanda said. “I want to see how the kids have grown.”