YMHF invites volunteers from China and abroad to participate in a variety of activities in the Shangri-La community.  These volunteers have been an important part of our project development.  The volunteers fund their travel to Shangri La and local costs themselves.  The projects they work on range from teaching English to helping with the Foundation’s projects in cultural heritage and sustainable tourism.  Here are some of the YMHF volunteers and a thumbnail sketch of the projects that they have been working on.

February-March, 2009

Wang Shuai/ Jackie

Wang Shuai (Jackie) came to Shangri-la after Spring Festival. As a college student majoring in marketing, she helped us manage the handicraft shop and improve the sales. She updated some for the products and advertising for the center. She also worked on our new “Block Printing” project and visited several monasteries, interviewing local monks for information needed about “wind horse flags”


 Yin Di/ Leonala  

Dreaming of “becoming a teacher”, Leonala came to Shangri-la center at the end of February. She took charged of the English teaching project and developed the new teaching tool of phonetics, which is very useful for students at beginning level. Based on her classes, she also made a curriculum that would be available for teachers and which could be copied as needed for student use.

January, 2009 – December, 200

Mateusz Biegata

He met Chi Lily, former volunteer, in Dali after she left the center in December. After an evening spent talking about Lily’s experience in the Handicraft Center, he decided to come to Shangri-la center as a volunteer.  Mat is doing his academic research for his Master thesis in Social Psychology at Poznan University. With his academic talents, he finished several articles about local people and their lifestyles during the research trip to Weixi County. He also worked in our English Teaching project and introduced the culture of Europe and Poland, his hometown, to local students. Building friendship with local people is an important contribution Mati made. One evening he even cooked a Polish meal for some of his new friends at the Center.

Dong Zhen

Recommended by her friend, He Rong, our former volunteer, Dong Zhen left her job in Beijing and came to follow her “Shangri-la Dream”.  An idealist, she found our Center helped her achieve her goals:  to help others and make the world better a better place through her efforts. She introduced English movies into the teaching project. She also worked as a photographer for the opening ceremony of the “Thank You Small Library”. Before she left, she donated her favorite book, Little Prince, to the library and hoped all readers, children or adults can always retain childlike qualities for ever.


She started her work in Shangri-la on the first day of December. As a graduate from Beijing Foreign Studies University with her major in English, she took the charge of English teaching project during the first week she came. Later she helped staff prepare the opening ceremony of the “Thank You Small Library”. Thanks to her great talents of English and management, the opening ceremony was a big success. After the opening ceremony, she also served as the TYSM librarian.


Jingjing came to Shangri-la with her friend Gao Lanrong.   As she has her own shop in Beijing, she liked to manage the handicraft shop in Shangri-la. She provided valuable suggestions about products tag and inventory. Now we still use the model created by her. She was great help for the preparing the Library Opening in December 2008. Many good photos of the opening ceremony were taken by her.

October-November, 2008

Chi Lily

As a “mysterious faquir”, she traveled the India, Nepal, Pakistan and Southeast Asia. One day in November 2008, she happened to visit our Center and decided to stay as a volunteer.  She saw a perfect opportunity for quiet contemplation and as well as for helping others. She was involved in almost every project at our center. For the opening of the library, she sometimes categorized books until midnight. She also built the good relationship with some local Tibetan monks and brought new knowledge to our team. Even though she did not wish to be remembered in a photograh, her contribution and good work will be remembered with thanks!


Zhang Cao (on right)

With the enthusiasm for helping others through education, Zhang Cao managed the English Teaching project at the Shangri-la Center and with our partners at ETTI (Eastern Tibet Training Institute). Even though she was busy with her teaching projects, she also came to help in the library   categorizing books. We appreciated her patience and talent as well as willingness to take on any task at hand with a smile.


Chen Chong / Coco

Chen Chong (Coco) came to Shangri-la Center in October, 2008. She offered the great help for the “Thank You Small Library” project. To meet the deadline of opening of the library, she and Jenny heroically took the overnight bus from Kunming to Shangri-la to bring 1500 books to meet the deadline for the Library opening. With her  background in Biology, she also made contributions to the bee project by visiting the project site and giving some valuable suggestions.

Christine Shives

Christine heard our center from a friend when she visited Shangri-la. As many other volunteers, she liked the center and decided to be a volunteer at the first visit. With rich experience of teaching, she managed the English training project. Besides, she also provided a great help for other projects by interview and writing articles. She traveled to Benzilan, a Tibetan town several hours from Shangri La, to visit the Handicraft Workshop that supplies painted wood bowls and products to the Center. We are very impressed by her bravery and enthusiasm. You can read her report which is included in our website under the crafts projects.

August and September 2008

Alison Busche

Alison Busche graduated from Arizona State University in 2004 with a master in Political Science and Minor in Philosophy. She has since been traveling Asia as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh, TEFL teacher in Thailand, US-China Friendship Volunteer in Chengdu. During her service for YMHF from October to November, she involved in the joint YPET (Youth Pre – Employment Training) Program with ETTI (Eastern Tibet Training Institute) and taught students from villages to help them find the first job in their lives.

He Rong

He Rong, a talented artist and photographer, came to Shangri la with Allison.  She worked previously as a photography assistant in a Japanese magazine. During September, she took  many excellent photos as records for our bee and handicraft projects.  She also taught English for local children and became a good friend to them.

Liu Yue /Lyla

Liu Yue (Lyla) managed the handicraft shop when she came at the end of August. With her background in Economics, she developed good partnerships with local business owners, which have been very helpful for our handicraft sales. In November, she came returned to the Center to help with the “Thank You Small Library”project.

Wang Man/Jenny

 Jenny has worked for YMHC from the end of August until now. She first came as a volunteer for one month in 2008, and then became one of our regular staff..  As project manager, she oversees all of our activities and partnerships in Shangri La.  She has become a regular “local” well known on the streets of the town.   She oversees the volunteer program as well as coordinating the handicraft store, library, and English teaching project.

 Julia Cheng (the left one)

Julia Cheng taught local children English during the summer holidays in July 2008. Her classes were so popular that she struggled to make time for her students that often numbered more than 40. With great patience and teaching skill, she managed the English Teaching project successfully. Even now, her former students often mentioned her and asked when she will come again.

July and August 2008

Alexander Lam, Yukio Kusada, An Na

These  volunteers joined YMHF residency program during the summer of 2008.  They managed sales at the Center, English classes and Saturday English Corner, the table in the market square as well as their own individual assignments.  Alexander, high school student from California, taught English to a local student at the Center as part of his high school volunteer project.  Yukio from Japan studied our local marketing strategies and made proposals for strengthening our Buy Local project.  Anna with her background in hotel management worked with the Hamagu Village people to create a baseline for tourist home stay and Tibetan home cooking for day trip visitors to the area.        

Leslie Skalak (Barnard ’09) arrived in Shangri-la in early June.  During her stay, Leslie worked in the shop on completing the store inventory and price list and reorganizing the displays.  Leslie, with a talent for design, reorganized the craft collection in the shop.  She helped with labeling the products with tourist information cards.  She kept the accounts from Center expenses and sales.  She also worked on advertising the store and redesigning business cards.  She also taught English lessons to local business people as well as high school and university students on summer break.  Along with the other interns she began a weekly English Corner open to the entire Shangri-la community.  Leslie also worked on the Tibetan phrasebook, research on the local herbal medicine project, as well as documenting the Hamagu village bee project during honey collection.

Carissa Fletcher, a student of Chinese language for the 2007-8 academic year in China.  She comes to China from Pomona College in California.  She joined Belinda and Leslie as a volunteer in June.  Carissa worked with Belinda and Leslie and held English tutorials for individual students on a one to one basis.  Carissa worked on YMHF’s micro-enterprise scheme and the Rushan Cheese project.  She drafted the contractual arrangements and discussed details with the village partners.  Her language skills, honed during her semester in China gave Carissa tools for digging into issues.  Carissa worked with our artisan partners in Benzilan. She also contributed to the Yak Tea Tourist project. This summer presented some interesting challenges in Shangri-La with the drop in summer tourism.  Carissa and Leslie redesigned the Center’s local advertising card and canvassed the town for sites where tourists might be likely to find the new cards.

Clare Randt came to Shangri La for a week in summer 08.  She volunteered in the Center and helped with lots of useful activities.  She visited the Hamagu farmers and interviewed them for information on our Wild Medicinal Herb Project.  She found that most of the information we have collected to date applies to traditional Chinese medicine.  The farmers did not seem to have much to share about the local Tibetan herbal remedies.  Clare helped sort through our craft collection and reorganize the shelves and storage, a housekeeping task that keeps displays fresh and new.

Belinda Wong Swanson

Belinda comes to YMHF from Santa Fe, New Mexico.  She did investigative research on life in local villages focusing on education opportunities in the area.  Belinda also worked on the Hamagu village Bee Keeping Project and added a chapter to the write up of this interesting project.  She organized informal English lessons for a Shangri la shopkeeper who was not able to complete high school.  She contributed to “Wild Edible and Medicinal Herbs of Shangri La” handbook which will be used to provide information on local flora to tourists visiting the Handicraft Center.  Belinda took a special interest studying micro credit for local entrepreneurs.  Belinda’s great interest is alternative energy.  She would like to do some follow up study of the feasibility of solar energy to replace some of the need for burning wood for cooking and heating the local farm houses.  From beautiful Santa Fe to lovely Shangri La, Belinda is a devotee to mountains and indigenous cultures.

Berit Klandt- Spring 2008

Berit (U of Diusberg-Essen, Germany) came to Shangri La Handicraft Center in early March.  She helped Drolma with the craft collection at the YMHF shop, taught our staff beginning German, and met with our partners in Gyalthang.  She lived for a week in Hamagu Village in the home of a local Tibetan family where she studied village life and spent time teaching the young students beginning English.  Berit also spent two weeks teaching English in Shaaxi, a Ming era village in the hills two hours drive from Lijiang. 
Thank you, Berit, for your time caring for the Handicraft shop, the completion of 2008 Spring inventory, your contribution to the “Wild Edible and Medicinal Herbs of Shangri La”, information for tourists visiting the Handicraft Center, assisting in the bee keeping project and all the other responsibilities you took on managing YMHF Shangri La during your stay.   Photo: Berit and Qili

Sahra Malik
continues to help YMHF its graphic designs and maintaining the website.  Her cards, brochures and posters have been a big help to advertising and promoting our activities.

Alia Malik has worked on developing a line of spa products for fundraising at the Center and with partners of the Center.  She has built a concept of beauty products and image for the line. Alia most recently spent time in Shangri La in March 07. She has visited the site on several previous occasions.

Johanna Kuhn-Osius
Expanding Market Links for Crafts-Fall/Winter 2007

Johanna Kuhn-Osius (USA) brought her marketing skills to the Handicraft Center in the fall of 2007.  Along with Jo McEwan (Singapore), Johanna created a “spa basket” to help boost sales for the artisans outside of Diqing.  The spa basket set contained a bamboo basket, Tibetan wool coaster, Nixi pottery, incense sticks and incense burner.  All the items were made by Shangri La artisans.  Joanna studied international links with “fair trade” organizations via the internet to help market some of the crafts from artisans that YMHF has worked with locally.  Photo: Johanna and Drolma at the Center

Jo McEwan  

Jo has been a friend and volunteer for YMHF since it was founded in 2006.    Josephine has take active interest in our projects and assisted on a volunteer basis to promote and support YMHF activities in marketing handicrafts in our poverty alleviation project and has helped with several campaigns to promote and protect local cultural heritage in our Yunnan based projects.  Jo introduced YMHF to the Rotary Club in Beijing and brought her energy and enthusiasm to help YMHF organize tables at several Christmas Bazaar venues (including the Hilton Hotel Rotarian Bazaar) in Beijing, Winter 2007.  This was a very successful effort and boosted sales during a period that is normally very slow in Shangri La.  She continues to help us with marketing and other promotional activities.  Photo: Jo is on the far right with the white shopping bag

Spring 2008

Xie Tian

Xie Tian (China Foreign Affairs University, Beijing) also known to us as Gillian, has been working in YMHF Beijing Office on our latest initiative “The Shangri La Institute.”  Gill was the key focal point person in organizing the TSE event to invite eminent thinkers in the fields of economic development and social research together to discuss poverty alleviation and mitigating the adverse effects of modernization in rural cities, communities across the globe.  Gillian brings excellent organizing skills, fine translations, and a much needed pair of hands to the task of communicating with our list of invitees.   The Kemaliye Sister City –Friends of Shangri La was a great success and many thanks are due to Gill’s excellent communication skills, translations, and work with invitees and counterparts.