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  • Writer's pictureShanghai Expat Association

Behind the Scenes at SEA: Our charity volunteers!

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

by Julia Henningsen

We talked to Community Outreach Chairperson Julie Chun, SEA Secretary Evan Stubbs and SEA Member and Shanghai Sunrise volunteer Natalie Hallensleben about well being, new experiences for your career and being self-fulfilled.

SEA members explore the newly opened Museum of Art Pudong with Julie Chun on September 24, 2021. Photo courtesy of Julie Chun

Hailing from California, USA, Julie Chun has been in Shanghai since 2011 and liaises with SEA-approved community outreach organizations. She is also an adjunct professor of Art History and has taught for Global Institutes at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Donghua University, and East China Normal University. She is also an art critic for Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Art Convener of the Royal Asiatic Society China (RAS), and mom of three boys.

You were a regular member at SEA, what made you want to take over a more

active role?

“When we arrived in Shanghai, I immediately plugged into the Royal Asiatic Society, the American Club, and SEA. It was my good fortune of having an expat assignment before Shanghai. I wanted to fully immerse myself in Chinese culture and by the first year I had taken part in many activities on the SEA calendar. Eventually as my boys started getting older, I was able to do more.

Julie Chun, lecturing on public sculpture at Red Town in April 2012. Photo by Pat Remington.

I was already delivering art lectures and museum talks for RAS and the American Club. It was only a matter of time before I started to offer these talks for SEA members. Whether it’s a personal interest to engage with art or meeting like-minded people, it is always a pleasure to host art lectures for expats. I also learn from them as well.”

Community outreach chair versus art critic – how do these two worlds intertwine?

“Art is my field, community outreach is my anchor. One meets my professional needs, the other my personal needs. As a mom of three, my husband and I have always stressed the importance of volunteering and giving back to our community.”

Tell us more about community outreach and the charities you work with:

“SEA partners with local charities in the greater Shanghai community to expand our understanding of the needs of Chinese children and youths. Currently, we have six organizations I meet with and my role is to provide a link between them and SEA. I enjoy and appreciate others who are also involved in different charities because many are inspiring volunteers. Heart to Heart Shanghai, for example, provides corrective surgery for Chinese children from all over China with congenital heart defects whose parents are unable to afford the surgery. Besides Heart to Heart Shanghai, the 2021-22 SEA supported charities are Stepping Stones, Shanghai Sunrise, Baoji Xinxing Aid for Street Children, More Than Aware, and Make A Wish.”

Julie Chun at a Heart to Heart hospital visit on December 2020 for Ru Zijun. Photo courtesy of Julie Chun.

Evan Stubbs is the secretary and a past president. He hails from the USA and has been in Shanghai for four years.

Evan, you regularly help with community outreach tasks. Can you tell us about an outcome of SEA’s charity support?

“I remember one of my visits for Heart to Heart: The family could not get a loan to cover the surgery. With the organizational help of Heart to Heart, SEA could change the future of the child. The doctors agreed that within six months after surgery, he should be able to be taken off all heart medication and should live a full life without any difficulties from his heart defect.”

First visit for Heart to Heart after the Covid-19 lockdown: Evan Stubbs visiting Fang Guoqing, an 11 year old boy from Jiangxi province on September 1, 2020 with Julie Chun, SEA Charity Outreach Chair and Jodi Monastra, SEA member. The boy had a complex congenital heart disease but came through his open heart surgery successfully. He was being sponsored by SEA. Photo courtesy of Julie Chun.

“Kudos also go to all the SEA members who support Stepping Stones and Baoji Xinxing Aid for Street Children who work to improve the education and general welfare of disadvantaged children in China, especially the children of migrant workers and street kids,“ he adds.

Evan Stubbs (SEA Secretary) making SEA donation to Rob Jameson, a volunteer of Baoji Xinxing Aid for Street Kids on November 12, 2019. Photo courtesy of Julie Chun.

Natalie Hallensleben is a SEA member and volunteer at the charity Shanghai Sunrise since March 2019. She moved from Germany to Shanghai in September 2018.

Natalie Hallensleben at Shanghai Sunrise Student Sponsor Pairing Ceremony on November 30, 2019. Photo by Gangfeng Wang

Natalie, tell us something about your work for Shanghai Sunrise.

Shanghai Sunrise is a local charity giving access to education to disadvantaged youth. Over the past 25 years, our scholarship programs have helped 3,200 students complete their education. I started volunteering as marketing and communications lead in 2019 after hearing about their work at a SEA Coffee Morning. As a mother of two small kids, I enjoy contributing to a good cause while getting to know like-minded people from different backgrounds. The most memorable moments are definitely the occasions to talk with the sponsored students in person. At first, most are very shy but after a few ice-breakers several share glimpses into their lives, hobbies and aspirations.“

Back to Julie.

What would you tell potential volunteers interested in community outreach?

“Please join us. I am always looking for someone to come with me to hospital visits and other charity-related events. Supporting SEA-approved charities does not take up a lot of time. You can volunteer to buy a present for a hospital visit, and it’s always heartwarming to see a child’s face when s/he receives it. For Stepping Stones, you can teach English in-person or remotely. For Baoji Xinxing Aid, you can send them soap, hand sanitizers, and hygiene supplies. You can also indirectly support Home Slice Pizza, which is owned by Rob Jameson who has been a volunteer for Baoji Xinxing Aid for over a decade and who uses his personal vacation time to visit the youth center in Baoji. There are really many small things we can do to help our community. Also, we provide volunteer opportunities for SEA members who want to take on more active roles with these charities. The decreasing number of foreigners entering China, due to the pandemic, has impacted many charities in Shanghai and China. We are always looking for volunteers who wish to help out.”

People may think they need a lot of time or need to be specially skilled, is that true?

“We have many qualified members but of course there are work and/or family commitments. However, the good thing about volunteering is that you can manage it within your own schedule. Please come and talk to me for more information on how to get involved.”

What did volunteering change for you?

“It makes Shanghai feel more like a home, and I no longer feel like a visitor. You will develop a renewed sense of belonging as you start taking on more committed roles. Eventually we will all go back to our home countries – and when you do, you will have wonderful memories that have formed in your time in Shanghai.”

Do you remember your most memorable experience with community outreach?

“I was invited to a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish. Make-A-Wish supports Chinese children with terminal illness to grant their wishes. A video relayed the situation about a young boy from Guangzhou who had leukemia. Since he lives in southern China where it is warm, his wish was to build a snowman. As a sponsor of this wish, the Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai closed off their entire inner atrium and brought a snow machine to create a winter Wonderland for the little boy and his parents. He was frail and had to be bundled up but he got to build a snowman. Seeing the joy on his face was a touching moment that I will never forget.”

If you are interested in assisting Community Outreach or connecting with any of SEA’s sponsored charities as a volunteer, please email

About the author:

Julia Henningsen has lived in Shanghai with her husband and two daughters since 2020. Until her relocation, she was a press officer and marketing and communications expert at IT consulting companies, for the German Energy Agency, and in the advertising industry. She is a member of the German Chamber of Commerce and co-chair for communication at SEA. As a freelance writer, she co-authored the calendar "The Famous Die Young". Her current publication is the chapter "China's high-tech victory over Covid-19: opportunities for a new normal. What businesses (need to) know about China's post-Corona reality" in the second, expanded edition of the book "China in the spotlight of the 21st century. Impulses for business, science and society" by Tobias Loitsch, published by Springer Verlag. She reports on her life in Shanghai on Instagram as juliantoni.

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