Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vietnamese Student Directs Innovative Summer Program

When Pearl S. Buck toured West Virginia in the 1970s raising money for the West Virginia Women’s Clubs to restore the family farmhouse in Hillsboro, she hoped the house would become “a gateway to new thoughts and dreams and ways of life.” To achieve that goal, the Pearl Buck Birthplace Museum this June and July hosted its first summer series on Asia.

For five weeks, Phi Nguyen, a math and arts major at Berea College from Hanoi, Vietnam, taught Asian arts and crafts to elementary school students at Hillsboro and Marlinton libraries. She also held adult cooking classes, manned tables at local festivals, presented at the Marlinton senior center, and assisted the Pocahontas County Arts Council.

Initially, organizers feared low participation after hearing that summer programs at the Hillsboro Library were lucky to attract two or three students. Upon seeing fourteen kids the first day, librarian Elwood Groves commented that it was the largest turnout he had seen since he started work there. Phi has been similarly impressed, commenting, “I was surprised how interested the students are in Asia.” The Pearl Buck Birthplace Foundation has been working to establish closer connections with a second Pearl Buck museum in Zhenjiang, China, to one day offer further opportunities for local students.

The Pearl Buck House offers guided tours May 1 to Nov. 1 from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Memberships are available for $5 through the Birthplace Foundation at info@pearlsbuckbirthplace.com or (304) 653-4430.

For more information, contact Stacie Gilmore – stacie.gilmore@gmail.com or 304-653-4328.

PHOTO: Berea College student and PSBB summer intern Phi Nguyen and VISTA Stacie Gilmore with students from Hillsboro, WV learning to make paper dragons. (left to right: Charles Hunter Wilfong, Lanty Rose, Phi Nguyen, Emily Henderson, Victoria Rose, Briar Wilfong, Stacie Gilmore)

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