National Youth Week 2016 – an article by We Care Act
It was a clear May afternoon in 2008, and my sisters and I had just gotten back from school. We, like the rest of the world, were not expecting anything to happen. But when my mom turned on the TV, we saw the devastation that had struck. May 12, 2008 is now a day that is impossible to forget, because it is the day a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan, China, the day of the third most destructive earthquake in history. The sheer numbers were horrifying. 87,150 killed or missing, hundreds of thousands injured, millions displaced. That night, my parents were on the phone for hours, calling our grandparents, relatives, and friends in China.
We had to do something, anything, and so as a family, we created home-made newsletters and donation boxes and went around the neighborhood asking for donations. After that first day of fundraising, I decided I wanted to contribute my own money too, so I took all my savings – $94.87 – and added it to our donation boxes. From there, we continued fundraising. We kept going door-to-door, and my sisters and I also went to our schools to collect donations. Three months later, we had raised over $6,000. We donated $4,500 to the Red Cross, and in August, we went to China and hand-delivered the remaining $1,500 to five of the hardest hit victims of the earthquake. While we were there, we also bought books for their library and homemade bookmarks. We talked to them in a makeshift school, sitting in a small, temporary room with more people than beds. They were barely older than I was.
In the beginning, we just wanted to help some of the people suffering from the earthquake through any way we could. But since then, we have expanded our service efforts. We are now an official 501c(3) non-profit organization, We Care Act. We Care Act focuses on not just disaster relief projects, but also service learning, education, and most recently, electronics recycling. Last year, we went to a village in Nicaragua, and brought with us refurbished laptops for the students there—the first time they saw a computer. We’ve sent books, clothes, and letters to the victims of disasters including the Nepal earthquake, the typhoon in the Philippines, Hurricane Sandy, and more. In total, we’ve worked with the victims of 12 natural disasters, as well as those in orphanages and rural villages. We have involved over 35,000 people all across the globe and have raised over $240,000 in funds and in-kind donations, including collecting/delivering more than $38,000 items of clothes, books, comforting letters, basketballs, and soccer/basketball goals, computers and eBook libraries, Kindles, and organizing educational workshops etc.
There were many obstacles along the way, especially because we started so young. But there was also a tremendous amount of support, whether that was from neighbors and friends or those across the world. After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, we sent out a call for handwritten letters to go to the students affected by the disaster. Over 5,000 letters and 1,600 paper cranes flew to us from every corner of the world, including Spain, France, Sweden, Russia, the UK, and Australia. It was then that I began to truly understand how much one person can start a chain reaction, and when the teachers and students in Japan wrote back to us, we shared their letters with all those who had sent their own. Through We Care Act, I have learned the value of bringing people together, and I know it’s something I will keep doing.
My two older sisters and I still lead the organization. We have worked together as a team through just about everything, with the occasional (maybe more than occasional) argument over what to do. But no matter if it’s about what our project should be, who we should focus on, or how to get the word out, we always eventually sort out our differences and find some common ground.
My sisters are in college now, and in a few years, I will be too. But with the help of the new connections we’re making, our amazing team leaders, and our friends across the U.S. and the world, we continue to expand. Eight years have passed since that afternoon in May, and we are still doing everything we can to help as many people as we can.
We Care Act is a youth-led, nonprofit organization founded by Grace, Sharon, and Eric Li in 2008. After seeing the devastating footage of the Sichuan Earthquake in May ’08, the siblings (then 12, 10, and 7) decided they had to do something. We Care Act’s original mission was to help disaster victims, but as it grew and expanded, and the siblings realized how many others wanted to get involved in community service but didn’t know how, another clause was added. Today, We Care Act is dedicated to disaster relief and engaging others to make a difference in the world.