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September 16, 2009

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New expat community center opens in Minhang District

SOONER or later all new expats will come to hear of the Community Center Shanghai (CCS). It offers courses, support and fun trips to help family and individuals get the most out of their time in China.

Now foreigners in "faraway" Minhang District can also turn to a new satellite branch.

CCS Director James Weidner says the new branch on Mingjia Road aims to develop resources for the Minhang expat community so they do not have to leave their turf to access life-enriching activities and courses.

"The expat community in Minhang is in the early stages of development, and it really lacks a focus," says Weidner. "Inside the foreign compounds it's exquisite and beautiful, but outside it is not as developed for foreigners as Pudong's Jinqiao or Gubei in Changning District."

The population of foreigners in Minhang is growing "and we want to come in with our proven track record to provide services to meet their needs," he says.

A soft opening was held recently for registration; the grand opening is expected sometime next year.

Minhang CCS is situated on the grounds of its sponsor, furniture store Category of One Interiors.

Courses begin this month in languages, first aid for parents and ayis, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Monthly "coffee connection mornings" begin this Friday at 11am. That's when expats can meet each other and share experiences.

The popular "Shanghai 123" course - an A-Z orientation for new expats on everything from shopping to medical facilities - will be held on November 14.

"Expat needs are the same in Minhang as elsewhere," says Weidner. "They need support groups and networks; they need to be prepared for emergencies; the family unit needs reinforcement and they need someone to show them around and activities to make the most of their time in China."

The CCS opened in Jinqiao in 1998 as the Concordia School Family Center. Over 10 years it has grown to be the largest community organization for expats from all walks of life. But given this status, the community center's expansion has been surprisingly slow.

Its first and only Puxi branch in Hongqiao was officially opened just this April. Another satellite branch has opened in People's Square, offering counseling and some core classes, but Weidner says Puxi operations are in a fledgling stage.

As a non-profit organization, the CCS relies on the local expat community to express their needs and make use of its resources. It needs sponsors to provide venues for classes at prime locations within expat-intensive areas.

The Minhang branch came about as a number of people approached Weidner with requests, leading CCS to host some focus groups. When a furniture store, whose owners were also expat members of CCS, offered sponsorship, the Minhang branch became a reality.

Weidner hopes they can find the same support for future expansions.

"Local residents need to embrace a community there, voice their desires and support us by coming to our activities. It's the only way more organizations will be willing to invest in an area."

The new Minhang branch expects a long stabilization period during which organizers hope it will take root.

Weidner is relatively new to CCS, having joined in June 2008. He has always worked in non-profits, including working for three years to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Previously, he spent six years in the Philippines.

Upcoming CCS events include their biggest annual ball in November and a charity fun run on September 25. Corporations are targeted but everyone is welcome.

Five hundred runners are expected to raise 100,000 yuan (US$14,640) for the community center's charity projects.

CCS Minhang branch

Address: 3/F, Bldg 1, 318 Mingjia Rd, Huacao Town

Tel: 6406-4276


Fun Run

Starts from Zhangjiang Parkyard Hotel

Date: September 25, 7:30-9am

Address: 699 Bibo Rd, next to Metro station


Tel: 3382-1770 ext 204


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