Gapper Video Profile: Maggie, Magic Hospital – Beijing

On our visit with Magic Hospital in Beijing, China, GiveYourGap was able to sit down with Maggie, a part-time volunteer form South Carolina, to talk with her about her volunteering abroad experience.

Full interview transcript

GYG: So first, can you introduce yourself for us?
Maggie:Hi my name is Maggie Hicks. I’m from Colombia, South Carolina, I’m 25 years old, and I’m currently living in Beijing China volunteering for Magic Hospital.
GYG: What is Magic Hospital? What do they do?
Maggie: Magic Hospital is a quality of life organization. So we work in partnership with hospitals, migrant schools, and orphanages around Beijing to help improve the programs that they already have in place. So we bring in volunteers who can help with art or music or just to bring a new level of engagement to organizations that work with children. We also do different individual programs like outdoorsy days or gift-giving where we go into these organizations and do a special type of event.
GYG: What do you do specifically for Magic Hospital? What are some of your daily tasks?
Maggie: I’m the volunteer communications coordinator. I have a full-time job, but I also work as a volunteer with Magic Hospital to do the website, work with local publications, spread the word about different fundraising events that we’re having, basically just get the word out about what Magic Hospital does. So daily stuff that I do is I post pictures of our most recent events, I edit our website, or I’ll answer questions that a local publication might have about what we do and our volunteer opportunities.
GYG: How did you find Magic Hospital?
Maggie: I originally moved to Beijing to teach, and then have since found another job. I found Magic Hospital just through searching. I wanted to do something that would supplement the skills that I already had and was learning through work and where I could help an organization grow and use the skills that I was learning through my professional job. So I found Magic Hospital just through Google and through word of mouth. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of different people from everywhere around the world in Beijing.
GYG: What can other people do volunteering at Magic Hospital?
Maggie: We have two different ways to volunteer at Magic Hospital. One is the core team that does more the administrative work. We help coordinate the different programs and do fundraising, communications. We also have volunteers who work within the specific programs in our partner institution. So they go into the migrant schools or the hospitals and actually play out the programs that we help coordinate and work with children and teach them, or do art with them, or play with them.
GYG: How do you like living in Beijing? What’s the experience like to volunteer here?
Maggie: Living in Beijing has been a great experience. It’s been three years and I get to meet people from everywhere who are doing really really interesting things. As everyone knows, China is growing, and there are amazing opportunities if you do choose to come here. There is someone who is working on everything, so no matter what your interested in, someone is here who is doing something innovative in that space. I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most.
GYG: Why should people come to volunteer at Magic Hospital?
Maggie: I think the real reason people would want to come to volunteer for Magic Hospital is because you really do get to see the difference you get to make. We are a small organization but we have strong partnerships with the groups that we work with. When you go into these schools, the little bit that we are able to do has a big impact. I think that you’re not going to get lost in the scope of Magic Hospital. You’re really going to get to see what your skills and your energy can do to make a positive change.

Thanks Maggie!! It was so great to see someone dedicating their little free time volunteering, even while working abroad. Best of luck! Check out our full feature on Magic Hospital.


Janice Smith, Ramakrishna Vivekanada Girls’ Blind and Deaf Orphanage School

Name: Janice Smith
Type of Work: Education, Arts, Language
Region: Asia
Length of stay: 1-2 months

Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
I was the first foreign volunteer to stay and live with the girls in 2009. I taught and and other cultural activities.

Share a favorite memory.
The never ending love the girls had to offer. I learned so much about life and self discover.

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
Material items are not essential to live a happy and meaningful life. I learned so much about their language and culture that positively effects me today on a daily basis.

What was the most challenging part of your job?
Not being able to speak the language, adapting to their food and hot humid climate.

Do you have any advice for prospective gappers?
Travel with an extremely open heart and try as many new things as possible, except from street food venders :)


Mugdha Golwalkar, Project RISHI

Name, Age:Mugdha Golwalkar, 20
University, Major:UC San Diego, Human Biology
Length of stay:Flexible
Type of Work:Medical/Public Health, Environment/Conservation , Education, Community Development, Arts, Childcare

Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
Project RISHI (Rural Indian Social and Healthcare Improvement) is a student-run organization that works during the year to raise funds for several sustainable projects, which we then carry out on a two-week trip to a leprosy colony in rural Maharastra, India. We have chapters at UC San Diego, UCLA, Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Davis, and Northwestern University currently, but we’re always looking to expand! You can check out the website at or specifically the UCSD chapter at or follow us on Twitter @SDProjectRISHI for updates!

How did you find your position?
I heard about the first GBM through another organization on the UCSD campus called Sangam, and went from there!

What’s your typical day like?
When we visit, we have a fair amount of flexibility with the kinds of work we can help with there. I woke up every day at 5 am to wrap leprosy wounds in the hospital, and then spent most of the day either working on our projects, teaching dance lessons to disabled girls, teaching/helping out at the kindergarten and nursery, meeting with officials to assess the kind of project that the colony and neighboring villages still need that we could help with, and working in the pathology lab taking blood samples from patients and testing them for malaria. There are tons of opportunities if you take the initiative to ask about them.


What kind of people do you work with?
This colony does get other organizations that visit it, so you will be working with natives as well as international people most of the time. The majority of the administration speaks English, so language is not a big problem. The ages of people we worked with varied a lot depending on what each person chose get involved in in the community. Most people in the colony are minimally educated, but often knowledgable in the specific trades they have learned.

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1What are your living accommodations?
The colony has a guest house, which is generally a small room with several cots and an attached bathroom with western style toilet and eastern style baths (out of buckets). They aren’t the most comfortable accommodations, and sometimes there are bugs, but they do provide all the meals and the experience more than makes up for the adjustment. Internet is available at a central location, but it’s pretty slow and limited as this is an extremely rural area.

What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, we learned sign language form some of the locals, we went hiking and biking around the area. Sometimes we would go out into the main city to the market or to little local restaurants.

Most of these girls are either partially blind or deaf or were affected in some way by leprosy, but most of them already danced in the orchestra! Teaching them was an honor.

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience!
I got to teach Indian classical dance to girls affected by disabilities or leprosy! Honestly, they were so sweet, and they welcomed me with open arms and called me their “older sister” even though I was younger than some of them! They wanted us to teach them some western dance, but then spent the whole time making fun of me and my other friend who taught them when we tried to show them a latin dance to Shakira. They’re definitely friends I’m never going to forget, and they’re a big part of why I want to go back.

How are you financing your time?
I’m paying for the trip mainly out of my own funds, but with some help from my parents. The trip we take through Project RISHI generally costs $1500 and lasts for 2 weeks, but the leprosy colony we stay at would gladly welcome volunteers who want to stay longer, and it wouldn’t be too much more expensive.

What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?

Do you feel like you are making a positive, critical impact on the global community?
Yes, I do. I feel like outside the trip, I’m spreading awareness about leprosy, which for a completely curable disease that 95% of the population is immune to, is IMMENSELY stigmatized. And on the trip itself, I can tell I’m really helping by volunteering around the community, because they really need the manpower.

Sunset at Somnath

How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
I have always wanted to work in public health, preferably in a rural community as a career, but my biggest problem was that I wasn’t sure if I could handle the conditions. I’m applying to Masters in Public Health programs right now, and I’m thinking about medical school afterward, so this experience really solidified my future goals and showed me that I can handle an experience like this, and probably can handle rural medicine, more long-term.

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
Take the initiative! Most communities you will work in are really open to having volunteers. Ask what you can do, and it doesn’t have to be overt work, like in a hospital or a school. Teaching the locals a new game or babysitting for someone for a night so they can have a night off can be just as rewarding!

Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?
Our blog is at but as we didn’t have very stable internet there, our blogging was a little limited. Feel free to comment and ask questions though!

Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?