I just did an e-mail interview with Birgit Eberlein, who is currently building up a local group for betterplace in Beijing
Q: How did you find out about betterplace and what are you doing in Beijing?
Birgit: Last summer I met Joana in a Café in Berlin. She told me about betterplace and I immediatly thought: what a great idea! But I didn’t really know in any detail what it was all about. After having lived in Berlin for 6 years my family planned to go abroad again. My husband works for Chrysler and when we had the opportunity to go to Beijing we, we felt that it would be great chance to witness Chinas transformation.
Q.: How did you get in touch with interesting projects in China?
Birgit: After having heard about betterplace I kept my eyes and ears open. The problem wasn’t so much finding projects – there are sooo many – but a project suitable for betterplace. I was especially interesting in finding a project which didn’t yet have loads of support.
Q.:How did you come across Good Gifted Garden, the Beijing project already posted on betterplace?
Birgit: That was pure chance. A friend of mine from Berlin had given me Chun Hongs telephone number, as they had met a few years ago in Beijing. I was looking for some insider tips for restaurants and thus contacted her. We got on well straight away and she started telling me about her work. She spoke about it with such enthusiasm, that I was fascinated, She really lives for her work with handicapped and autistic children. Very impressive!
Q.: Was it easy to post the project or did you encounter many difficulties?
Birgit: The posting itself was no difficult, as we were one of the first projects and the people in the Berlin betterplace office were very helpful. On the other hand, the communication here in China was a challenge, for example to translate texts into English. Even though Chun Hong speaks English, many terms relating to her work are difficult to understand. After a while I had assembled a small network: my Chinese teacher translates her writing into English, while my Australian friend Mary checks up Chun Hongs “flowery” (as Joana calls it) English. It would be hard to do everything on my own. Simply to find out the name of the bank was a real problem. Even the employees of the Beijing branch couldn’t help and always sent me back with Chinese characters. But in the end we managed to work it out.
Q.: Do you have more projects for betterplace? And what else would you like to do with betterplace?
Birgit: There are a number of good projects, such as the Josephine Charles Foundation. I got to know Josephine a few weeks ago – she is an expat wife who works in the Liangshan area. She builds schools of girls, who are on the lowest social ladder in this part of China. There is another project, See the Stars, in which I am interested. They are looking after Tibetan orphans. The people in that region are suffering from the high UV-radiation and many are blind as there is a lack of sun glasses and medical treatments.
Yet, in order to look after all these projects I need a larger network. My idea is to contact a number of other expat networks to gather support. There is the INN (International Newcommersnetwork) and Beijing Café, an Interent chat platform. I am also going to contact a group in the German Embassy, which is very actively involved in charities. Many people are interested in betterplace. A few days ago I walked my dog with a few other women and they also want to join betterplace. Spontaneously we decided to call our group the Dogpark Community – why not? I would like to built up a local group which meets regulary. I am optimistic, but as the Chinese say: lbuibulei (this is the spoken version!) (step by step). I am glad to be part of betterplace: it is exiting to personally witness all the things which are happening here. As Mark Twain said: in twenty years you will be sorry for all the things you didn’t do, not for the ones you did.