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  • Writer's pictureShanghai Expat Association

Spotlight on: Stepping Stones

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

By Julie Chun, Community Outreach Chairperson

Who: Stepping Stones

When: Established 2006

What: To provide English lessons for children of migrant families

About Migrant Children in Shanghai

Millions of children of migrant workers move with their parents to become temporary residents in urban centers like Shanghai. Due to their families’ low economic and social status, living standards can be extremely low.

According to government statistics, there are 500,000 migrant children of school age living in Shanghai. A large proportion of these children attend regular Shanghai schools. However, for several reasons, including residence issues, about 30 percent of migrant children cannot be admitted to regular public schools, and many are enrolled in schools for migrant children, whose English educational standards fall behind the urban public schools. As one of the key subjects in the Chinese curriculum, English is the one that poses most challenges to rural and migrant children.

About the Organization

Stepping Stones was founded in 2006 by Corinne Hua, a British expat who serves as the Executive Director. It is a non-profit organization registered in Shanghai, China. With the mission to improve the education and general welfare of disadvantaged children in China, Stepping Stones has been sending volunteers to local migrant schools and community centers to provide free English lessons to migrant children for over 10 years. Yet, with Covid and restricted entry, the English classes are now being taught online to not only young students in and around Shanghai but throughout rural China as well as offering remote computer lessons and life skills to migrant teenagers, and providing professional training to Chinese teachers who can then teach English in migrant and rural schools.

Each week, 300 Stepping Stones volunteers deliver free English lessons to over 5,000 disadvantaged children at more than 40 project sites in Shanghai, as well as in rural China through the internet.

Stepping Stones also developed the I Care Project that provides free eye examination, glasses and treatment to the migrant children in Shanghai and Zhejiang Province who would not have access to these services. By the end of 2017, the I Care Project had screened 21,896 migrant children in Shanghai and provided 3,503 pairs of glasses and 26 eye operations.

Volunteer Opportunities

Many SEA members have taken part as English teaching volunteers, yet with the turnover of the expat community in Shanghai new teachers and volunteers are always needed.

Volunteers can assist by teaching once a week (any day of the week) for a full school term with a minimum of 8 weeks teaching in a migrant school or a community center located in Shanghai, or through the internet to left-behind children in rural China. Currently with Covid restrictions, teaching is online with all teaching materials and training provided by Stepping Stones.

For more information, please visit: or reach the organization by email

Want to be a volunteer? Sign up at

Original Courier publish date: November, 2018

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