Not An Outsider | Devoting half her life to education, 70-year-old British teacher says 'China is more like home to me'
Born in 1953 in Wales, England, Eleri Wynne graduated from the University of Reading with a Master's degree in Literature and Education, and is a pianist, fluent in English, Welsh, French, Swedish, Chinese and other languages. Since arriving in China in 1992, Wynne has lived in the country for 30 years and says it feels more like home to her than England.
"I miss the children at the village schools and look forward to going back to teach them again sooner rather than later." Wynne, who speaks fluent Chinese, is concerned about the children in the mountains of Linqu, Weifang, Shandong Province. She began voluntary teaching in the countryside in 2014, and she often drove nearly 100 kilometers to the mountains by herself to teach classes. From once a week, in the beginning, to once every two weeks, Wynne says she enjoyed the time with the kids in the countryside.
Wynne has a lot of photos saved in her phone, where the children are gathered around her and the girls are holding her arms. When asked about the reason for teaching in the countryside, Wynne said it was a long story to tell.
When she first arrived in China, she first worked as a foreign teacher at Xi'an Foreign Language Institute (now Xi'an International Studies University) and then went on to teach at Lanzhou Medical College (now combined into Lanzhou University ) the following year. During this time, Wynne realized that although college students from rural areas studied very hard, they could never catch up with the urban kids when it comes to speaking English. Since then, she has started to develop the idea of teaching in rural areas.
In August 2017, while teaching in Linqu, Weifang, she learned through a local teacher that a child with leukemia was in desperate need of help, and she donated more than 60,000 yuan to the child. When a Chinese friend of Wynne's acquaintance in Guizhou got skin cancer, she not only donated more than 20,000 yuan, but also contacted her medical students to coordinate the patient's surgery in Tianjin.
Wynne is not a particularly wealthy person, and her income is limited to her salary as a foreign teacher and a portion of her pension from the UK. In 2019, the Shandong Provincial Government awarded Wynne the "Qilu Friendship Award," the highest honor for foreign experts working in Shandong.
"I will stay in China for the rest of my life, it's more like a home to me than the UK!" Wynne explained that this was because she could help more children and do more meaningful things here.
For the past 30 years, Wynne has tried to make sure she returns to the UK once a year to visit her family and friends. She has been showing the real picture of China to her western friends in various ways so that they can have a clearer understanding of China. Through her coordination and efforts, cultural exchange groups of teachers and students from the UK, Germany and Switzerland have visited China 15 times, and dozens of well-known foreign experts have been appointed as visiting professors in major universities.