Student-led Charity: Help a Child Smile

In this edition of Student Blogs, Year 12 student Vani Gupta discusses her work with Help a Child Smile (HACS), a charity organisation founded by students at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing, and its special importance to her.

What is the charity that you work with?

The charity that I work with is HACS, or Help a Child Smile. Our goal is to raise money to fund cleft lip surgery in order to make a difference in a child’s life. We’re all working together to raise money, and hopefully one day we can see the children who we’ve made a difference for.

What does HACS do to achieve this goal?

Since our goal is obviously to raise money, we conduct a lot of fundraisers. Our most recent one was a mufti day where we sold customised wrist bands with Help a Child Smile written on them to raise awareness about what we do. We raised 3000 RMB in profit. We have leaders who propose ideas, but everyone pitches in in terms of what fundraisers and activities we think would work and what we think would not work. We have schedules to make sure that everyone is actually getting involved in the activities so that no one feels left out or just sits on the side not contributing.

What inspired you to join HACS?

I had heard about HACS before, but I didn’t join it because I didn’t have time. Afterwards, once I considered it further, I found the cause to be really worth the time commitment. A child who has a cleft lip doesn’t seem like that important of a surgery at first, especially compared to people without arms, people without legs; what about them? But then, to a child walking around having to look at themselves in the mirror and think, “I don’t look like everyone else,” this is a difficult problem. I’ve been in a similar situation before where I experienced similar feelings. I used to always ask myself, “why am I not normal? Why am I not like them?” If I have the chance to change that, to make a child feel like they’re normal, then I’m willing to spend however much time is needed.

What is your favourite part of HACS?

As I said, it’s actually having a chance to change lives. I think that with a lot of charities what happens is we conduct fundraisers and raise a lot of money, which we then just give to the charities. It’s a lot of fun working with different people, but we never get to actually see what we’re actually doing or where the money is going. We know it’s going to be used for good, but what we end up doing is just giving the money and not seeing how it makes a difference. For me, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that I’m helping a good cause and only focus on the fundraising part.

With HACS, we are going to see the children, which will help us focus on the helping. I think that's what I love most about HACS: that I’m always reminded of the fact that I’m helping kids, not just raising money for a vague cause.

How has the school helped you with HACS?

HACS is a very student-oriented group, so we want to be independent. We have student leaders and all the students contribute, so most of the ideas are our own, although sometimes we borrow ideas from previous years. The school provides us with venues, and if we want to have a bigger event we can ask our teachers for help. The school has always been very supportive, and we always run our ideas by those in charge, like our heads of Secondary and Primary school. Our teachers are also extremely helpful; although they’re not actually participating in the meetings, they still give us advice about ideas and how to improve.

Have you interacted directly with those you helped?

Since I just joined HACS, I haven’t yet. However, we have already started planning our next meeting with the children. We were thinking after December that we can start meeting with them. We’re just still collecting the money to donate but will definitely meet with them in the near future.

Is there a specific event that stands out for you? What challenges did you have to face and overcome?

There were a lot of challenges during one activity we organized. One big challenge was that I wasn't sure of the details of the event we planned and how the lucky draw that was hosted during the event would actually work, which was a very important part. This was my first year, so I was very shy about asking the other students. I’m not a shy person, but I didn’t want to feel like the only one who didn’t know. Now I know to ask people, because I can’t just shy away if I have a question.

One of the other bigger challenges I’ve faced has been organisation. I’m relatively organised, but in this case because I was just contributing and not a leader, I wasn’t sure about how they ran things. This caused issues when we were collecting money for a mufti day. We didn’t have our class lists that we were supposed to have, which definitely made things a little messy. It worked out in the end and we were able to raise the money we needed, but it made me realize the importance of organisation and communication.

I think that in the end, all the challenges are why I was successful. In smaller events that didn’t seem significant at the time I ended up learning a lot, and we raised 3000 RMB in profit after this event. I think that success would have felt this meaningful if I hadn’t encountered those challenges.

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