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Showing Gratitude Through Charity

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March 23, 2009

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University at Albany students from China

Six Chinese students returned the generosity showed to them during their stay in the U.S. by volunteering with the Capital District Habitat for Humanity. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

After a massive earthquake ravaged her home province of Sichuan, China last May, Xiaoli Zhang experienced an outpouring of generosity from around the world, including the opportunity to study at UAlbany. In return, Zhang wants to show her gratitude to the community that welcomed her after such devastation.

Zhang and five other University students from China will volunteer with the Capital District Habitat for Humanity, helping complete the organization's latest project at 50 Odell Street. Students will participate in the project's last work day on Friday, March 27. They will join more than 100 volunteers who have dedicated seven months to its completion, in partnership with SEFCU.

"I'm so appreciative of those who've reached out to us, so I want to do my best to help other people in need," said Zhang, a junior studying public administration.

UAlbany was one of 22 State University of New York campuses to open its doors to 150 Chinese undergraduate students from the Sichuan Province in western China, site of a magnitude eight earthquake. The students, who arrived last August, are studying in the U.S. for one year.

Earthquake ravaged province of Sichuan in China

Sichuan Province in western China suffered a magnitude eight earthquake in May. Chinese undergraduate students were offered a chance to study for one year in the U.S., including six students at UAlbany.

"It's amazing to me that they have been such cheerful individuals day in and day out, despite being so far away from home after suffering such devastation -- losing houses or family members," said Danielle Leonard, program coordinator, UAlbany Office of International Education. "But they have been such a joy to have on campus."

Since the students' arrival, the campus community and its neighbors have demonstrated overwhelming support by offering everything from hot meals to winter coats. The students have also been invited to a number of events, including the chance to meet NBA basketball star Yao Ming and the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Keyu Peng.

But for Zhang and the others, their experience wouldn't be complete without giving back to the community that has given so much to them.

"It's just very heartwarming to have these students be part of finishing this home because they've been there, they know what it's like," said Carol Brinkman, executive director, SEFCU Foundation. "One of the great things about these projects is that itís a collaborative effort with different facets of the community. It's just people being good to one another."

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