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We Care Act is a non-profit, youth-led organization founded by Grace, Sharon, and Eric Li at ages 12, 10 and 7, respectively. Since 2008, We Care Act has evolved from a small, backyard family fundraiser to an international organization with a clear purpose and goal in mind.
May 12, 2008 is a day familiar to most, but it was on May 15 that everything changed for these three siblings. Although the earthquake hit on the 12th, it wasn’t until three days later that extensive coverage of the Sichuan earthquake began to appear on the news, and it was then that the future founders of WCA saw the devastating effects of nature on man, uncontrolled and uninhibited. The death toll piled up before their eyes. 20,000. 50,000. 90,000. Millions injured.
The images of death and destruction were horrifying, the stories of miracles awe-inspiring, but the rescues were few and far-between, and although the news spoke frequently about more aid coming in, it was never enough. While havoc was being wreaked halfway across the world, their small Texas town was unaffected. Few knew about the earthquake yet, and even fewer had done anything to help. They planned to change that.
Thus, the first issue of what would become a newsletter series was created, but Grace, Sharon, and Eric realized that merely information wasn’t enough, and knew that the sympathy and emotion the earthquake pictures and articles would evoke was an opportunity not only to help the earthquake victims but also the people in their community. They signed up with the local Red Cross and got donation cans to distribute in their three schools, and made donation boxes for door-to-door collections in their neighborhood, as well as stationing themselves in community centers, afterschools, etc. slowly but surely, the donations started pouring in.
Within a few months, they made three additional issues of their Earthquake Act newsletter, recruited friends, worked with other youth in the neighborhood, and, finally, ended up with over $6,000 in cash, as well as books donated and excess of the bookmarks they created and sold.
At the end of the summer, their family arranged a trip to Sichuan, where the three of them saw the ruin with their own eyes, instead of through a grainy TV screen that failed to capture the true impact of the earthquake. But more importantly, the siblings were able to meet some of the earthquake victims, children their own age, who had suffered losses almost unimaginable, and attempted to do something to ease their pain by presenting them with the donated funds and books. During the visit, they were made acutely aware that however much they had already done, more was needed for these young victims, many of whom had lost loved ones, were without a permanent home or a school, and without adequate books and school supplies.
So many people were in need, they realized, not only the earthquake victims in Sichuan, but people all over the world, whether it was right now or in the distant future, and how could they not do all they could to help those people? And so We Care Act was born, a charity dedicated to helping disaster victims…but organizations need to expand, and, while conducting their fundraising activities, they realized that many teens and children were eager to help with only some guidance and a few examples on how. So another clause was added to We Care Act ’s missions. “…and engaging others to join in the effort to make a difference in the world.”
And WCA began to recruit team leaders. Each team leader is a unique unit, and organizes his/her own events,
recruits volunteers, and conducts projects with We Care Act ’s support and offer of supplies, funds, etc. if desired. In addition, team leaders are free to participate and contribute to WCA’s projects and create his/her own under the We Care Act banner, which encourages both individualism and community support.
With these opportunities, We Care Act now (August 2010) has over 70 team leaders in over 20 cities of the U.S. and three other countries: Canada, Singapore, and China. Together, it is estimated that We Care Act team leaders have helped more than 8,000 students, including the earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Sichuan and Qinghai, China, as well as the hurricane victims in Galveston, Texas, poverty students in Hunan, China, and has also raised funds for autism research in the U.S.
We Care Act ’s major projects include: large-scale book drives and clothing drives, fundraising activities i.e. book fair, bookmark fair, wristband sales, launching their first annual program titled “a month for making a difference”, and an English workshop in Sichuan, China. WCA partners with the President’s Volunteer Service Award to reward its volunteers, has joined Funding Factory (for recycling), Amazon.com, and GoodSearch to raise money for its cause.
Since established, each year We Care Act has created opportunities for teens worldwide on Global Youth Service Days. With a Disney Minnie grant (Youth Service America) awarded to WCA in 2009, the Nicholas Green Distinguishing Student Award (National Association of Gifted Children) and Ann Shaw Elementary Scholar Award for Leadership (Texas Association of Gifted and Talented) (to Sharon Li), and the Harris Wofford Award (Youth Service America) in 2010 (to Grace Li), We Care Act has used its award money and the prestige gained to engage youth in different countries to do service not only on the Global Youth Service Day, but year round. In addition, We Care Act obtained a Dosomething.org disaster grant to help with the fundraising effort, and is joining Dosomething.org’s consulting program to obtain training for youth leaders.
Besides working with local organizations and local, national, and international team leaders, We Care Act aims to provide opportunities to more global youth including those who traditionally don’t have access to them. In July 2010, We Care Act leaders traveled to Sichuan, China and worked with students there (the 2008 earthquake victims) in a high school to exchange ideas, facilitate global understanding, and help the students learn English.
The programs at We Care Act specifically target youth, but people of all ages are welcome to aid as well as receive aid if needed. The We Care Act program is designed to provide free service opportunities to ensure that everyone who wants to can serve and make a difference, regardless of background, age, income, gender, etc. For example, We Care Act provides portfolio and essential training to any youth who is interested in serving to lead a program, ranging from collecting used books and toys from neighbors to organizing school-wide fundraising activities.
We Care Act would like to work with its partners to provide leadership training to youth team leaders and education opportunities and global understanding to other youth in need. But WCA is not an organization that remains rooted in the past, or even the present. Instead it focuses on the future, and the opportunities in it. Although its original goal was to help the Sichuan earthquake victims, it then developed to disaster victims worldwide, and it is now ready for yet another change. The world is developing, and We Care Act is planning to develop with it through continuing to provide basic aid to children suffering worldwide, but also conducting workshops and other programs to give youth a chance for not only a better present, but a better future and a better life. Because disasters strike without warning, We Care Act realizes that it not only needs to help in the aftermath, but try and make sure that the disaster never happens through science and scientific research, and, if inevitable, to ensure that as few will be harmed as possible.
Youth everywhere are dreaming of changing the world. We Care Act would like to make those dreams a reality.