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There's more to life than working and partying

IT'S a simple statement: "There is more to life," and it's the motto of a new organization for young professionals looking to make a difference in their community.

The organization is BEAN - a social, networking and volunteering group for young professionals in Shanghai, expat and local.

BEAN's president, teacher Aimee Haynes, says the organization aims to provide a range of volunteering opportunities for those who want something beyond the routine of work and socializing with friends.

"BEAN works on the tenants of leadership, friendship and philanthropy and is focused on getting people involved in their community," Haynes says. "One of the things that makes BEAN different is that we are usually giving our time rather than donating money."

The organization is a spinoff from the original BEAN organization that started six years ago in Seattle, US state of Washington. BEAN originally meant Business and Engineering Activist Network, but today it appeals to far more than business people and engineers. And BEAN's a catchy name, suggesting growing things, like bean sprouts, and using the old bean.

The Shanghai branch started last September and has quickly grown to more than 650 members.

BEAN is completely non-profit and volunteers give their time freely.

It makes no money from its networking and social events, instead using them as a forum where like-minded people can swap information on volunteer work.

Volunteering includes working with a local orphanage and promoting basic health education.

The Shanghai branch was begun through a Facebook page that now has 594 members.

Anyone can join: Members are mostly graduate students and young white collars in their 20s and 30s in many professions.

BEAN holds a networking event on the second Monday of the month at Kuluska Spanish Restaurant on Kangding Road in Jing'an District.

"It is a social networking event that is more about social awareness than business networking, although people have made business contacts from our events," Haynes says.

"It is where you can meet socially minded people because in Shanghai, like a lot of other places, you can get very caught up in a work/social lifestyle and you don't necessarily meet other people who want to do something positive in the community," she adds.

Social events typically focus on providing a different activity. They have included go-karting and a Jacuzzi night at Hyatt on the Bund.

February's event will be at Shanghai's indoor skiing center.

"We try to do something fun and a little out of the ordinary from the kind of things you would normally do in Shanghai," Haynes says.

BEAN activities include helping Sunshine Homes, a care facility for adults with mental and physical disabilities. Volunteers run arts and crafts activities and lifestyle skills-focused events.

Volunteers need not speak Chinese, but it can be helpful for some activities.

One such activity is an upcoming dental health education program in schools for migrant children on February 21. BEAN is seeking 30 volunteers with some Mandarin-speaking ability.

BEAN will distribute free toothbrushes and run fun activities to teach good dental hygiene to more than 600 children.

Volunteer Tammy Ku is an American business management consultant. She says the organization offers young professionals flexible volunteering options that can fit their busy schedules.

While she did college volunteer work in the United States and later as well when she worked in New York, Ku says it was difficult to find Shanghai organizations looking for volunteers and offering flexible arrangements.

"A lot of people can get swept up in working hard and meeting and hanging out with friends and may not know the best way to give back to the community," she says.

"BEAN allows people to pick and choose the volunteer work that best suits their busy schedules rather than being tied to just one organization."

This month's volunteer events include the dental hygiene day on February 21 and an event for an orphanage for children with disabilities on February 14.

For more information, please visit the group's Facebook page or e-mail to


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