Alana Chu motors her cart to the finish line in the 3-year-olds’ car race on Wednesday afternoon in Kennedy Park. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Ahlanna Capalbo carries her cart to the finish line in the 2018 Hope House Baby Olympics held in Kennedy Park in Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — A group of 30 volunteers from the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Boston, who are all from Mandarin-speaking countries, have spent the last six days at Hope House helping with two of their biggest events of the year.
Most of the volunteers are undergraduate and post-graduate students in the Boston area with a few young professionals, too.
The church group has been making the trip to Lewiston several times a year for the past three years to help Hope House with their bigger events that need more hands on deck.
Tim, one of the volunteers, said they first heard about Hope House from another member of their church, Xu Yng, who volunteered there as part of a different project.
“Yng told us about Hope House, and we met Bruce and Jan and learned about their time here reaching out to the refugee community,” Tim said.
He said a lot of the church members have had similar experiences to that of the refugees and could relate to being an immigrant away from home.
“That’s sort of what brought us here,” he said.
Tim said a lot of what keeps them coming back is the Wilsons’ dedication to the community, and how that guides them.
“We were intrigued by their time and service,” Tim said. “When we come here it’s just a small part of what Bruce and Jan have established. We’re blessed to have the opportunity to come here.”
Tim said he finds the opportunity to serve and meet with a new community very rewarding.
“We came into this not knowing what to expect. Over time,” he said, “we’ve developed great relationships with the local people.”
Yibin, another volunteer, said her time at Hope House in inspiring.
“Bruce and Jan put in a lot of effort here, out of love,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine working here for more than 30 years, it’s very inspiring. No matter how hard the work can be, you can see their joy.”
Yibin also said that for a lot of the church group, seeing larger families was very eye-opening.
“In China, where there’s a one child policy, it’s surprising to see some families here with six or seven kids,” Tim said.
Yibin said she can tell it’s “such a blessing to have so much family.”
“Many of us have been studying very hard, we’ve been focused on studying our whole life,” Nan, another volunteer, said. “Seeing Bruce and Jan spending all their time helping others is eye-opening.”
Tim, Yibin and Nan have been coming to Hope House all three years that the church group has volunteered, but a lot of the other volunteers are here for the first time.
“The first year we came here there were about 15 of us,” Tim said. “This year there’s 30.”
This year the group helped with the annual Portland Head Light field trip, where Hope House takes bus loads of people to the beach in Portland, complete with a free barbecue and T-shirts.
“The families enjoy the day getting out of the city,” Jan said. “And Hudson Bus Lines, they’ve been doing this for us for four years.”
The other event the group came to help with is the Baby Olympics, and it’s the first year the event has been held since the church started visiting.
The afternoon event was a competition for babies as young as 3 months to toddlers as old as 5.
The games ranged from “Baby Smile” to “Push Toy Marathon,” all the way up to “Obstacle Course” and “Championship Kickball.”
The winners of each event received a prize, which have been donated by the community and ranged from strollers to dollhouses to board games.
“The neighborhood loves it,” Jan said. “These big events are a change for them to enjoy and not have to be the labor force.”
She said the help from the church allows the regular volunteers a chance to relax.
Jan said the group also comes up to help with Thanksgiving, the fall apple fail and the back to school fair.
Hope House is located at 91 College St. Anyone who is interested in volunteering or donating can visit hopehousemaine.com.