“Hands and Eyes!”
Cheri Chan, our valued September 2018 “Volunteer of the Month” smiles each time she hears our teachers gently but firmly call our students to attention. Cheri—like many of our volunteers—just can’t get enough of KidWorks.
In fact, she doubles her fun by volunteering at not just one of our centers, but two: The Cedar Evergreen and Townsend satellite locations, which are embedded in locations where most of our students live just steps away from homework help.
“I love working at multiple centers,” Cheri says. “It’s deeply inspiring to witness the way individual teachers bring the class and students to life. Snack time, prayer, reciting KidWorks’ traditions, homework time and creative play are part of every KidWorks after-school classroom. Just as importantly, Ms. Dianna and Ms. Karina, along with their teams, shape the overall experience in diverse, yet equally impactful ways.”
Having grown up in what she describes as “a typical Hong Kong family” where education is highly valued and academic achievement strongly emphasized, Cheri says she “encourages the kids to see their homework in new ways--not as boring busy work but as fun challenges.”
Cheri’s professional life is also focused on education. Most recently, she served as Assistant Director, International Student Success at Concordia University in Irvine.
“Cheri has been such a great volunteer ever since she started with us in March 2017,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator. “She’s volunteered for many hours and also secured in-kind donations. Her positive attitude makes her a joy to be around and she’s always willing to help in any way she can.”
Cheri deeply appreciates the unique perspective volunteering at our satellite centers provides.
“I feel moved by the tireless, poured out hearts of the KidWorks team at Townsend and Cedar Evergreen,” she says. “These centers are truly integrated into the neighborhoods. For example, Cedar Evergreen is situated in exactly the space of one apartment on Evergreen Street. The staff’s love and dedication to the families shine so brightly. As a volunteer, walking up and down Townsend and Evergreen streets, I’m greeted by kids who are playing in the yard or peering out of the window. When they see me, they call my name, and run out to give me a hug!”
Cheri brings her strong faith to her volunteer duties. “Ever since becoming a Christian, I rest in the fact that my identity and value are no longer what I must earn from external affirmation or accolades. I am convicted that there is always beauty in brokenness and hope against despair.
So, in teachable moments like a hard homework problem, a disagreement over toys, or spilled milk, I try to help kids persist in hope. Being a child at heart, I connect with kids through creativity and wonder. I love water balloons, camp songs and chasing butterflies as much as they do!”
Cheri is also a tremendous KidWorks ambassador, introducing friends and colleagues to us as potential volunteers. “I’ve enjoyed being a bridge, bringing people of different backgrounds and experiences together,” she explains.
Cheri and her husband, Nick, relocated to Irvine from Binghamton, New York. They welcome other Asian-born transplants to their home to explore and grow their Christian faith. Having been born in Hong Kong and lived there until she was 14-years-old, Cheri has empathy for those who have left their homeland and work hard to learn a new language and customs.
In her spare time, Cheri says she “loves walking around farmers markets, local festivals and university campuses.” She adds, “I enjoy sampling street food from around the world. I love theater (especially musical theater), independent film and world cinema. I collect toys and picture books, and one of my goals is to write a children’s story someday, teaming up with my sister as the illustrator. The working title is ‘Two,’ and it tells about a quest involving two protagonists that celebrates cultural uniqueness and shared humanity.”
It’s easy to imagine our wonderful September “Volunteer of the Month” reading “Two” to our eager young students sometime soon.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer