Christopher Yao's aChievements
Because of his outstanding achievements in the field of philanthropic work, Christopher has received several awards and recognitions. He has won the Presidential Volunteer Service Award three times in a row, which shows how much impact Christopher has had through his organization. Christopher has also received a Nestle Very Best in Youth Award and a Prudential Spirit of Community Award, and has recently been included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America.
Why He Founded Kids Change the World
One of the things that prompted Christopher to start Kids Change the World is seeing the importance of actively participating in the work of society. He knows and firmly believes that it is in every individual to have that desire to make a positive change in the world, they just need someone who would help lead and guide them into manifesting that desire. He often says in interviews:
“These days, people my age are so focused on college and academics they forget about community service and volunteering. But I think the whole purpose of life is to do your best and make the greatest impact on your community. If you have a strong passion for something, you should do it.”
Christopher’s dedication and passion in serving others comes from the joy of becoming a part of the change in a person’s life. Throughout his career in Kids Change the World, Christopher has seen and proven firsthand that there is nothing more fulfilling than to see someone’s life improve and become better, all the while being a part of it. He said once in an interview:
“My biggest inspiration is the impact I see being made. Once you see one person's life being changed, you can't just stop there. They're thankful forever and they'll remember you forever ... and you know that there are other people waiting for your help and you just can't stop.”
How Life with an Under-Jaw Bite Inspired Him
Having gone through a difficult situation himself when he was younger, Christopher has developed an understanding of what many children with various illnesses are going through. In fact, what is so amazing about Christopher is when he was being treated for his condition (Christopher had been diagnosed with an under-jaw bite when he was in his sixth grade), instead of focusing on what he was feeling, the young Christopher was instead thinking of other children who had it worse than him.
Because of this, instead of feeling sorry for himself, Christopher used his own experience in combatting an illness as a means of understanding the things that other children are going through. This understanding is what constantly motivates Christopher to continue helping people, knowing that with the help of others, one can triumph over every obstacle in life.
“I’ve found that volunteering and service have become my greatest passions in life—and purpose. This is exactly what I like to do; almost as a hobby! The experience of touching so many lives and meeting so many people from around the world is truly amazing and inspiring.”
Christopher firmly believes through practice, one can hone his skills to such a point that he or she becomes a master to it. He has personally proven this through experience in dealing with the affairs of Kids Change the World, and as such, encourages other youths to never back down from doing what they really want to just because they are not initially good at it. Christopher gave an example through an interview:
“To run a nonprofit organization you have to be creative, innovative, and transparent as well as have good communication skills. In the beginning, I did not have all of these characteristics but I have built them over the years. I would tell all kids that they should take chances in life because entrepreneurship is all about risks. A student can earn an A+ in his public speaking class, but have no fundamental solid skill at all whereas someone who has never taken a public speaking class but regularly gives speeches has the invaluable experience that cannot be taught in the classroom.”
Probably the most fascinating trait that Christopher has is never letting his age keep him from doing something great. When he was first starting out in his philanthropic career, a lot of people were telling him how he was too young to be spending his time as a philanthropist. And yet, in spite of all the discouraging words and thoughts that he had to combat every day, Christopher never lets himself be overcome by these things. He took the risk, fought the battle, and today, stands among the most successful young philanthropists in the world. Christopher said this:
“When someone doubts my because of my age, my inside gut feeling makes me want to accomplish and surpass the goal even more to prove the person wrong. However, I believe there is no age limit to do the extraordinary and I believe everyone can do anything if they try.”
Grandfather Yulin is Christopher Yao’s Inspiration
Christopher Yao is a 16–year–old New Yorker. Growing up, Christopher was greatly inspired and influenced by the life of his grandfather, Yulin Yao. Yulin was born during the Chinese Revolution to parents who supported the Nationalist government. When Yulin was only seven years old, his parents were killed by communists—but not before helping their son escape. Having no one to take care of him, Yulin lived a very difficult life and learned to work when he was still young. He was taken in as a worker by a landowner and sent to work in the farm, where Yulin survived by eating scraps of meal that were about to be thrown away by the farmer’s family. Eventually, Yulin found a way out of China and hitched a ride on a cargo ship to Taiwan, where he was able to find a ‘good’ job and finish his high school studies.
After graduating from high school, Yulin completed his college studies in Taiwan and even became a class valedictorian. Yulin went to the United States where he served as a US physician during the Vietnam War. After the war, Yulin settled in New York where he found work as a physician and quickly built his reputation. Sometime during his adult life, Yulin was diagnosed with cancer and lymphoma, but was miraculously healed. He went on to write a novel which was based on his life, and still continues his work as a physician today. Many years later, Christopher related how his grandfather, Yulin, often reminded him that miracles did happen, and that this helped him to never give up when he combatted his condition.
Like most Chinese families, Christopher’s parents emphasized studying hard and getting good quality education. As such, they did everything they can to ensure that Christopher would be enrolled in a good school. Even at a very young age, Christopher’s parents already started tutoring him in various subjects, which greatly helped develop his analytical and thinking skills. Because of this, Christopher became a good student, excelling in his studies. It was also during his childhood that Christopher first began to exhibit traits of leadership—in spite of his quiet and studious demeanor, Christopher still made a lot of friends.
Life After Under-Jaw Bite
It seemed that everything was going well for Christopher—he was living a quite comfortable life, he was doing well in his studies, and he was loved by his family and friends. Everything was going his way, until Christopher reached his sixth grade at Jericho High School, when he was diagnosed with an under-jaw bite. During the check-up, the doctor who did tests on Christopher told him and his family that Christopher would have to undergo surgery to avoid developing eating problems and affecting his speech.
It was a really tough challenge in Christopher’s life, but through the love and care of his family and friends, Christopher was able to endure the ordeal. Another thing that kept him going was his grandfather’s inspiration, having gone through a time of illness as well and coming out of it alive and well. And so, through the help of a doctor, Christopher was treated of his condition and went on to resume his life as a normal child.
During Christopher’s treatment, he came to think of children who were suffering far worse than he was—children with clefts, who would grow up to never have a normal life due to having problems with speaking, eating, or even drinking. Coming to this realization, Christopher began to think of the suffering that others were going through, and how he can help alleviate it, in spite of going through one himself. He used his experience that day as a motivating factor to be able to help other children who were going through tough times as well. He later said during an interview:
“I know how it feels to go through tough situations like these. I developed a passion for helping others going through situations worse than mine.”
Christopher Yao Ready to Help Fellow Youth
Armed with this newfound desire in serving and helping other children, Christopher, after leaving the hospital, went on a search for organizations that would permit him to fundraise for them. He was so full of a heart of service that he felt so ready, but there was another obstacle he had to face—his age.
During his first few tries, Christopher was faced with quite disappointing turn downs due to the fact that the people from the organizations he applied to thought that he was too young to be in philanthropy. His parents were initially quite skeptical as well, thinking that it was such a great risk for Christopher to be doing philanthropic work at ten years of age. Christopher said later on:
“I began to search for organizations that would let me fundraise for them. In the beginning, everyone was a bit doubtful. Many of the organizations thought I was too young and inexperienced, and I didn't have a lot of resources. They just weren't interested in investing thousands of dollars in case my work wasn't successful.”
Partnering with The Smile Train
Yet in spite of these initial setbacks, Christopher did not get discouraged. He knew that he was young for doing fundraising and ‘philanthropy,’ but he also believed in his genuine desire and he was certain that he was meant to help other people. Strengthened with this conviction, Christopher continued to look for other foundations that would be willing to accept help from someone of his age.
Fortunately, he did find one. Christopher became a part of The Smile Train, an organization that focused on helping children with clefts in developing countries whose families could not afford to pay for surgery by raising funds for them. In June 2007, The Smile Train helped organize Christopher’s first fundraiser—a local Read-A-Thon that Christopher ran in his class. The event was very successful, so much so that Christopher ended up raising more than two thousand dollars in just a span of one month. By the end of the campaign, Christopher had raised thousands of dollars which greatly contributed to the mission of The Smile Train foundation.
Launching Kids Change the World
Christopher’s philanthropic endeavors did not stop there. In September of that same year, Christopher was ready to start his own foundation. By that time, Christopher’s parents were already convinced about his passion, seeing the success that he was able to achieve through his collaboration with The Smile Train foundation.
And so, with the support of his family and friends, Christopher finally launched Kids Change the World, an organization dedicated to help raise a generation of young people who would be empowered and inspired to start their own careers in philanthropy by establishing their own charitable programs and organizations. To do this, Christopher utilized Kids Change the World to provide the resources that these children would need, such as grants and websites.
Initially, Christopher had to do everything by himself as he was still training those who joined him in Kids Change the World of the ins and outs of the organization. In his interviews, Christopher would state how it was the starting stages of the organization that was the most difficult to manage because he did almost everything himself.
However, as time went by, and more and more people began supporting Kids Change the World, Christopher began to include more people in the management and planning areas of the organization. Christopher recalled this during an interview made with him many years later:
“In the beginning, I did do almost everything myself. Unfortunately, if you want to get something done, the only true person you can rely on is yourself—even your parents may not be willing to give their full support, time, and effort. Today, many young volunteers help and advise me on decisions for the organization and also help spread the world about the program. Support from others is essential in starting a business or nonprofit because you want to have different input from a wide range of ethnicities, religions, and cultures.”
Aside from continuously running The Smile Train’s summer Read-A-Thons every year, one of the earliest and most significant partnerships that Kids Change the World had was the work they shared with the Daos Children’s Center in Mombasa, Kenya, a foundation that concentrated on helping children who were suffering from HIV and AIDS, as well as post-election violence. Since they started working with the Daos Children’s Center, Christopher and his Kids Change the World team have played a vital role in helping thousands of children in the country. One of the most recent projects that Kids Change the World has been involved with the Daos Children’s Center was a fundraising campaign to establish the city’s largest freshwater well, which was built in the Children’s Center.
Kids Change the World has Grown Into a Powerful Network
When Christopher started, he never imagined that he would be standing where he is today. Since its early days, Kids Change the World has grown into a powerful network, actively supporting the cause of the organization. In 2010, Christopher became a recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, and went on to win the award for the next two consecutive years. In 2012, Christopher was honored by Youth Service America and included him in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential People in the World, which simply proves just how significant his efforts have been in changing the world.
Currently, Christopher is at his sophomore year at senior high school, looking forward to completing it and getting a degree in either medicine or business. With a GPA of 3.97, Christopher is among the best students in the school, which is very extraordinary considering that he is busy with his philanthropic activities. In an interview, Christopher related just how fulfilling his charitable work has been:
“Over the years, I have found my experience in the nonprofit sector extremely rewarding. Despite the difficulties in the past, nonprofit service work has become my passion. I am blessed to be able to change the lives of thousands of people every year and have so many opportunities to meet and work with extraordinary and inspirational people around the world.”
Christopher’s life is an amazing inspiration for everyone because each of us has an innate desire to be able to contribute something good and significant to this world. His story of never giving up and standing up for his convictions remind us that everything is possible, for those who believe.
“Do whatever your passion takes you and stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone! Never ever give up, even if somebody tries to pull you down. Learn from your mistakes and see how you can improve them because you can only change the future, not the past.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Kids Change the World
- The Smile Train
- Daos Children’s Centre
- Lung Cancer Research Foundation
Awards and Achievements
- 2011: Invited to the White House by President Obama
- 2011: Received the Nestle Very Best in Youth Award
- 2011: Received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award
- 2012: Invited to the White House by President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America
- 2012: Received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award
- 2013: Invited to the 57th Presidential Inauguration of President Barack Obama