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Make the world a bit better

Since 2011, TU Chemnitz graduate Zhang Wei has been working as a professor at Sichuan University in Chengdu and is the head of a social project that attracts the international attention

  • In January 2013, Prof. Dr. Zhang Wei (r.) and her husband Chen Ximing (l.) established the Chengdu Hua Ren Development Center for Social Work. In the foreground stand the needs of children, young children and families. Photo: private

From 1997 until 2000, Zhang Wei took part in a postgraduate study program of Social Pedagogy, minoring in Education, Sociology and Psychology at Technische Universität Chemnitz. From 2000 until 2005 she studied to obtain a doctorate at the professorship of Social Pedagogy/Education mandated by Prof. Dr. Nando Belardi and Prof. Dr. Bernhard Koring on the issue of "Social Studies in China". In 2006, she was awarded with a university prize. "After my doctorate studies, I worked at the professorship of Social Pedagogy/Education as a research assistant. What I got at TU Chemnitz are not only two certificates, but much more: precious work experience through my academic work in teaching and research, and a wonderful time with colleagues and students“, said Zhang Wei. She also met her future husband during her studies in Chemnitz. "That is why TU Chemnitz and the city of Chemnitz are an integral part of our lives. Chemnitz is for us our second home“, said Zhang Wei.

In 2011, Zhang Wei and her husband went back to China to intensively deal with social work locally. As a professor at the Sichuan University in Chengdu, Zhang Wei is responsible for the departments of Social Work and Applied Psychology. "What is of a particular interest to me is, for instance, how the concepts of Social Pedagogy are used in China. Chinese people are very American-oriented, even in the field of social work. The theories and practice of social pedagogy from Europe are still very different, especially the good experience in the area of child and youth welfare. It is of a particular interest how the concepts of social workers can help children, youth and families in everyday life. I am also concerned about the way effective summaries can be pulled out of the research so that they can continue to serve people through the social service. What I like the most about teaching is the ability to discuss with students their own counselling cases“, said Zhang Wei.

In January 2013, Zhang Wei and her husband established the Chengdu Hua Ren Development Center for Social Work. The word "Hua" means "Chinese", and "Ren" means "Charity". "I want to find the appropriate way for the Development Center to perform social work, and to implement Chinese charity in practice“, said the professor. At that time Zhang Wei saw many reasons for the development of the Center. For her stand the needs of children, young children and families in the foreground. "When one speaks about education in China, it is compared with school education. Parents, children and tutors are much too focused on school performance and the pressure on children to perform well is very high. Often the parents do not know how to deal with the pressure from the teachers position and pass it on to the children. This vicious circle causes many problems. I want to establish and set up the Social Pedagogy as a third educational institution next to the family upbringing and school education in China to complement and support the social function of the families“, said Zhang.

Through the establishment of the Development Center Zhang can also offer good internship placements to her students. In the Hua Ren Development Center for Social Work, the students can gain their first Praxiserfahrungen through the children group work, family or educational counselling. According to Zhang Wei, at the moment the conditions for the development of social work are very cheap for implementing the following projects in China. In 2011, the government has adopted "Medium and long-term planning for increased development of social work and the propagation of the qualified employees between 2011 and 2020“. What is more, Hua Ren is supported by the district government Jinjiang of the city of Chengdu by providing free rooms. Day after day, Zhang Wei sees that her work is bearing fruit. "It is a great pleasure to notice the tremendous changes in the lives of children and parents due to our work. Their life became joyful. Through the help of social workers and educational counselling are strengthened the family relationships“, said Zhang Wei. Despite the great success it is difficult to win professional staff, because there are very little well-trained workers in China.

In July 2014, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had an official trip to China. Zhang Wei was happy to learn about her visit the Development Center Hua Ren. "I have already seen Mrs. Merkel at the chancellery in 2008. It was in the context of cooperation in the field of child and youth welfare between China and Germany. To see her again in Chengdu was an enjoyable feeling for me. I have been talking with Mrs. Merkel about the social work of the Hua Ren, and her visit was a great encouragement and support for us. I am very grateful and will continue working on the project together with my husband“, says Zhang Wei, but stresses that the Hua Ren needs further support of any kind for its further work from China and Germany: "My biggest dream would be to establish a Sino-German research institute for social work and social policy.“

After three years in China, Zhang Wei is missing Germany, especially its greenery and the clear air, but also her German friends and colleagues at TU Chemnitz. "I spent 15 years in Germany, and the best memories will always be connected to TU Chemnitz and the city of Chemnitz“, said Zhang Wei.

(Author: Damaris Diener, Translation: Nataliia Boiko)

Katharina Thehos

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