VOLUNTEER | Q&A with Matt and Rachel Pitt
“These young people are changing perceptions and it’s great to be a part of.” – Matt Pitt
Matt and Rachel joined our international long- term volunteers’ team in August 2018. Here they share their story of making the move from their home in the Midlands, UK, all the way to ICC Care Centre in Changsha, Hunan Province.
Before joining ICC, Rachel and I were living in Leicester, a small and diverse city in the Midlands, UK. I was working for the Church of England as a pioneer development worker – guiding people to start new church communities in partnership with their local communities. Rachel was commuting to Nottingham (about an hour north of Leicester), working in a rehabilitation unit for people with brain injury and stroke as an occupational therapist. We’d been living in Leicester for six years having graduated in 2011 in Sheffield (where we met) and married in 2012.
We always knew, separately, that we wanted to work abroad in some capacity and Rachel had come out on a Short Term Team to Changsha in 2010 while studying as an occupational therapist. Rachel and her family know John Cooper (who used to work at the UK office and lead short term teams to China) very well so have always had a connection with ICC. It therefore seemed a good fit and as we started talking about it, the more it became clearer to us that we should take the step to sell all our belongings, quit our jobs and jump into the unknown. We’re very glad we made that decision.
Which area of ICC do you work in?
Rachel works across all areas in Changsha Care Centre, and with Family Partners Programme (FPP), a service for families who need assistance to care for their disabled children and to prevent abandonment. Currently I work within Changsha Care Centre, assisting with vocational training at the Little Ark, leading short term teams, and writing “Hand-in-Hand” sponsorship updates.
Part of the Changsha Care Centre is the group home for children with moderate to severe disabilities called Enquan Yuan. We both spend a lot of time there. Rachel meeting therapy needs and supervising the local therapists, while I help by spending one-to-one time with the children. It’s been great to get to know all the kids at Enquan Yuan.
What surprises you and Rachel the most while you are living here?
Many things surprise us in China and there’s something new to learn everyday. The main thing that has surprised us, while spending time with ICC’s children and young people, are the moments of beauty, love and encounter, where they flip everything on its head and demonstrate love to you, the person that has come to help them.
Community Homes Visit
Every Thursday evening, we spend time with the adults who live in Senyu Home, a community-based group home for young adults. It’s become a routine that we now head to the local supermarket with them to get their food for the next day. The Ayi (carer) tells them how much money they can spend, and they have to come up with a menu. Twenty-year-old Feng (who has been with ICC since she was one-year-old) takes the lead on this, while generally, the others get us into a bit of fun chaos, wandering around the supermarket picking up things they shouldn’t.
From left: Rachel Pitt (international volunteer), Luelue, Fengfeng, Chaochao and Juanita Pretorius (international volunteer).
We’re always followed by a crowd whenever we go to the supermarket; it’s often four international volunteers and four or five ICC young people with one in a wheelchair.
The locals love to watch us. I hope they are learning about how people with disabilities can contribute to society. The staff at the supermarket certainly expects us along on a Thursday evening and are always very accommodating and helpful. These young people are changing perceptions, and it’s great to be a part of.