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A budding dream

Updated: 2012-08-16 12:57
By Fan Zhen (

A budding dream

Shen Danxi,founder of Dean D'Art, stands in front of the wall in the community center in the Lengquan village in northwest suburban Beijing on July 20, 2012. The wall is painted by the children in the village during the drawing classes. [Photo by Fan Zhen/]

Volunteer work, to most students, is a part-time job that can broaden their horizons or add embellishments to their resumes, but Shen Danxi says she will make it her future career.

Shen, 23, is a graduate student with a major in simultaneous translation at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. She is also the founder of Dean D'Art, a student association that focuses on art education for the floating children in big cities.

"When I founded Dean D'Art in April, I decided to make it an independent student group that has no school boundaries," she said. "Most importantly, I want it to last."

Shen did not make the decision on a whim but out of years of intern experiences in social work.

A budding dream

Shen Danxi puts makeup on a boy at the back stage of Penghao Theater in Beijing on July 27, 2012. [Photo by Fan Zhen/]

With her double bachelor degrees in English and International Liberal Studies in Peking University, she got the chance to be a protection intern for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2011.

She was the project leader of the Summer Reading Program for Baliang Primary School in Inner Mongolia in 2009. The team she led transported 600 donated books and built up a library for the school.

Influenced and inspired, Shen put her own dream to the test this summer. "There have been many NGOs and foundations dedicated to rural education but not so many focused on the education of children of migrant workers in the big cities," Shen said.

"There are more than 110,000 floating children in Beijing but only 140 schools are built for them," Shen said. "Let alone the poor quality of the facilities and teachers. Most of the children don't get much of a chance to learn art."

The summer theater project in Lengquan village is Dean D'Art's first move. Shen and her teammates spent two months recruiting volunteers, writing project plans, designing classes, drafting scripts and collecting clothes and stationary for costume making.

Those who work alongside Shen are impressed with her organization and work ethic. "She details everything," Zhang Wen, a volunteer and Shen's roommate said. "It is not unusual to see her work into the early hours of the morning."

Shen downplays her effort, saying simply, "I've gotten used to it." She emphasized that "It is important to keep everything documented if you want to make the plan a sustainable one afterwards."

Though well-prepared, Shen never expected to meet with Beijing's worst storm in six decades.

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