Grace Li’s We Care Act Helps 40,000 People
The We Care Act organization’s amazing story of growth and expansion owes its roots in the persistent and passionate efforts of Grace and her siblings to connect children from all over the world so they can help each other. Beginning from door-to-door donations, We Care Act has grown to a very large international organization that has reached over 40,000 people from numerous countries in the world, through the provisions made by thousands of people who continuously support the organization.
We Care Act has contributed greatly to the victims of various large-scale disasters such as the Sichuan and Haiti earthquakes, the Japan Tsunami, and Hurricane Sandy, among others.
Grace’s amazing dedication and passion for helping children that have gone through disasters come from her innate desire to see change happen. When she started with her first philanthropic project, which was to help the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake, Grace found out that she wanted to do more, and has since then worked passionately to help make a positive change in the lives of the people.
One thing that has been key to the success of We Care Act is Grace’s outlook in charity. Grace believes that every small act of compassion and kindness is important, and that every person has something to offer, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to them. The organization’s motto, “To the world, you may just be one person, but to one person, you might be the world,” is the driving force behind Grace’s passion for service.
Grace Li Also a Journalist
Grace also believes in everyone’s desire to make a change, and constantly encourages every child she talks to by telling them to not be afraid of taking risks. She has said in an interview:
“Starting a non-profit seems daunting at first, but when it’s broken down, it’s really not too hard. The most difficult part is just getting started and not being put off by how difficult it seems. Readers should find what they’re passionate about and then start small, maybe with community projects or something of that nature. There’s a lot of opportunities out there for the people who are willing to seek them, and it enables kids to take service to a whole new level.”
Through her fondness for writing, Grace has also come to know that writing letters can help bring the world together in heart and spirit, no matter how physically far they may be. This was proven with one of her most successful projects, the “Letters to Japan” initiative, where she encouraged thousands of children to write letters for those who were affected by the tsunami. She says in an interview:
“I personally love to write, and to read so many letters from so many people all around the world really opened my eyes to how disasters may physically tear the world apart, but can spiritually bring us together. To receive over 4,000 letters was both inspiring and extremely humbling.”
Keeping the people informed is also one thing that has greatly contributed to the success of We Care Act. Grace’s eye for opportunity has allowed her to utilize the Internet as a means of getting the word out, thus increasing the awareness of the situation and reaching more people who are willing to help. Grace greatly credits the Internet for being a powerful tool in the organization’s expansion:
“Because We Care Act is an international organization, with team leaders in four continents and over 100 different cities, we mainly use social media, such as Facebook, and our website, We Care Act. Another way to get the word out is through DoSomething.org, where we post our project information so that we can reach out to many people over the Internet. We also keep in regular communication with the people involved in We Care Act, so we’re able to mobilize people in a variety of places.”
But among all the traits that make Grace such an amazing and inspiring individual, her unique sense of optimism and perspective on things are the attributes that would probably be her strongest. Grace’s heart for helping children from across all countries come from her knowing on the inside that things will always get better, because there are still a lot of people who care. This is why she makes an effort to keep people in the know, because deep down, Grace knows that they are willing to help just like her.
Grace Li’s Early Biography
Grace Li was born in the town of Pearland, Texas, in August 1995. She was one of three children (the two others being Sharon Li and Eric Li) of Chinese-born parents who immigrated to the United States during their young adult lives in search for a better life. Grace’s parents were born from poor families who lived in small villages in the rural parts of China. They were very poor that while they were growing up, they constantly had to struggle for their food, much more in financial support for their schooling.
And yet, in spite of all the hardships that they had to go through, their parents (Grace’s grandparents) instilled in Grace’s parents the value of hard work and diligence, which enabled them to work their way out of China to the United States.
Through a stroke of fortune and sheer determination, Grace’s parents were able to earn doctorate degrees and are currently professors at the famous Baylor University in Texas. They were able to begin earning big salaries, which helped them establish good life for their family.
Because of their parents’ hard work, Grace and her siblings grew up in an environment of comfort and convenience. Grace’s parents not only made sure that she and her siblings would have everything they need materially, but also met their emotional needs by always being there for them and constantly affirming and encouraging them.
Even at a very young age, Grace would remember her parents telling her to always aim for big goals in life and to never be afraid to take risks. Much of the things that Grace would later on be known for would have their roots in her early years, when she received all the care and love from her parents.
Grace’s parents also never forgot their heritage, and made every effort to ensure that Grace and her siblings knew where they came from. In spite of having an American lifestyle, Grace’s parents incorporated many of the Chinese cultural aspects in their day to day living, like eating with chopsticks and celebrating Chinese holidays. They would also speak Chinese at home, which developed Grace’s skill in the language. On a blog she wrote many years later, Grace recalled how her parents made sure that she knew who she was so she would know where she was going:
“I've grown up eating rice and vegetables with chopsticks and celebrating Chinese New Year by attending festivals in Chinatown—regardless of whether it was a school day. When I visit China, it seems like second nature to switch from English to Chinese, to spend my days and nights immersed in the culture and the language... Sometimes, I catch myself thinking in Chinese.”
Like any other Chinese family, having a good education was an essential part of the Li family. As such, Grace and her siblings were at an early age strictly tutored by her parents, always being reminded that it is those who excel in their studies that find it easier to achieve their goals and dreams in life.
It was not an easy task, and Grace would often remember her father and mother forcing her to memorize mathematical formulas or history lessons; there were times that Grace would openly complain about studying because while her friends were outside having fun, she was inside the house doing school assignments and memorizations.
However, Grace’s father would often make up for her hours of study by occasionally taking them out for various outdoor activities such as fishing or camping, something that Grace and her siblings enjoyed.
Grace would eventually come to realize the importance of why her parents were strict with regard to her studies as she grew older. Due to her parents’ style of teaching, Grace excelled in her studies, and developed numerous skills and talents such as music and writing, the latter of which would greatly help her in her teenage years. In a blog she wrote many years later, during the birthday of her father, Grace said:
“Do you remember? Do you remember all those times you'd stay up and force me to learn math? And your eyes would practically light up as you taught me something new, and your words would begin to flow faster and faster until I could barely keep up, but it was okay, because I loved to see you so excited. Do you remember how you would work in the garden, and I would bang on a window from inside and wave at you? Do you remember how you'd explain biology to me in the morning as you drove me to school? I think I learned more during those fifteen minute sessions than I did in most of my classes.”
Sichuan Earthquake Kills 90,000 People
On May 12, 2008, a powerful earthquake hit the Sichuan Province in China with such intensity that it devastated the entire area. Even the biggest of buildings were reduced to rubble, leaving thousands of families homeless in the wake of the destruction. Over 90,000 people were killed, with millions more injured. Three days later, on May 15, the incident was broadcast on international television, which made the worldwide community aware of the disaster.
Among those who were able to witness this catastrophic event were Grace and her family, who were at that time in their house and was resting after coming home from school and work. Grace had always read about numerous earthquakes from her textbooks or heard stories of terrible disasters from her teachers in school, but witnessing the aftermath of the calamity through the television screen had a profound effect on her.
Seeing the mountains of debris and hearing of the reports of people buried under piles of rubble were too overwhelming for the young Grace, who had never before encountered tragedy. In her blog, Grace recalled an interview with one of the survivors:
“When the reporter interviewed a survivor, I didn't listen to the voice of the translator, but rather the man himself. In trembling Chinese, he described the sensation of the world falling down around him, and his fear for his wife, who he had not yet found. This was the first time I had felt such a personal connection to a disaster, and with it painted in gory detail on a color screen, I found that it was impossible for me to forget.”
Spreading the Word
As Grace went to school the next day, distraught and overwhelmed with grief over the disaster that just befell her fellow Chinese people, she tried to look for someone who would share her sadness. Unfortunately though, Grace’s classmates did not understand why she grieved. What was worse is, almost everyone in her class, including her teachers, were not even aware of what had just happened.
As she went home that day, Grace came upon a realization—in spite of having so many charitable organizations around the world, so few are helping because so many people do not know of the disasters. She said: “My indignant young self decided that everyone had to know about this, and that, more importantly, we all had to do something.” And she did.
After discussing her plans with her family, Grace wrote a newsletter that was designed to inform her fellow neighbors about the tragedy. They also constructed several donation boxes to ask for donations that they could forward to the organizations that were in charge of providing relief to those who were affected.
Grace’s initial efforts were successful. She and her siblings went door to door, asking for donations from her neighbours who were, as she found out, eager to help once they learned of the disaster. After the first run, Grace made more donation boxes, and with the help of the local Red Cross (which provided them donation cans to be given to their schools), Grace was able to reach more people.
She also made some bookmarks and sold them, with the earnings going to the donation funds. Within a few months of their campaign, Grace and her siblings were able to collect over six thousand dollars, aside from the other material donations, such as books.
Afterwards, Grace’s parents arranged a visit to China where she was able to get in touch with the victims of the disaster personally. Along with her entire family, Grace brought all the collected donations and gave them to the families who had lost their homes. The visit changed her life forever. She recalled her experiences in a blog she wrote years later:
“Meeting these students was a life-changing experience for me. Their gratitude and positive attitude despite the disaster motivated me. Although they had lost so much, they were still working hard, not only to make ends meet, but to do well in school. For them, English was a required subject, and weighed heavily in the most important test of their lives—the college entrance exam. However, they had no access to any materials in English. While I had a thousand different ways to access English books, they had none.”
The We Care Act is Born
Initially, she was only looking at having a small part in helping those who were affected, but after the visit, she now wanted to do more. When the Li family returned to the United States, Grace began talking to them about her plans in continuing what she started.
Grace’s parents and siblings were supportive of her, and soon enough, Grace established We Care Act, an organization that aimed to reach out to the children and their families all over the world that were affected by calamities. During an interview made with her years later, Grace said:
“When my siblings and I started fundraising for the earthquake victims in China, we never expected to do any more than just that. But after we got started, we wanted to just keep on doing more. We got involved in a variety of fundraising efforts and even organized our own events to help disaster victims. It just snowballed from there, with more and more people hearing about We Care Act and wanting to help out.”
Grace’s decision to enter the world of philanthropy was not a mistake. Soon after its founding, the number of those who supported We Care Act began to grow, through word of mouth and social media. During the devastation of Hurricane Ike, Grace and her siblings started a campaign to seek for donations to help those who were affected by the calamity. She personally delivered a full van of items to two elementary schools prior to Christmas, which greatly motivated her after seeing the thankful smiles of the teachers and the children.
In 2011, a strong earthquake hit the coastal parts of Japan, followed by a devastating tsunami that wiped out entire cities and killed thousands of people in its wake. The whole world was stunned with this disaster, and a few weeks later a nuclear reactor was damaged, which left Japan and its surrounding countries in a very dangerous situation.
After hearing of this disaster, Grace, through her foundation We Care Act, decided that this time, instead of giving material goods (of which tons were already pouring into Japan through the numerous charitable organizations worldwide), they would give the victims and survivors encouragement and inspiration by writing them letters.
Letters to Japan Gets Overwhelming Support
Grace started the “Letters to Japan” project, where she posted a request on the Internet for children across the globe to write letters of comfort and encouragement to the people of Japan. The project successfully received over six thousand letters and origami cranes, and sent these items over to the children in Japan.
Little did Grace know that her actions would impact the victims of the calamity in such a way that she would never anticipated. Within a few months of sending out the letters and origami cranes, Grace received numerous responses from the people who were able to receive the letters. In an interview made with her after the incident, Grace stated:
“When we sent out the letters, our contacts had already warned us not to expect a response, considering the damage that had been done to Japan and the recovery efforts still going on, so we were absolutely astonished to receive two packages in return. One of them was full of letters in reply to the ones we had sent, another we had candy and traditional Japanese sweets. The teachers thanked us not only for the concern and kindness of so many people but also for the educational opportunities that English letters provided them. We were so touched by the responses, especially since we were certain that we would never know exactly what kind of impact we had. To get so many replies really opened my eyes to how much of an effect just a few people could have.”
One of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People and Harris Wofford Awardee
Due to her amazing influence and charitable achievements, Grace was included in the list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America in 2012. Three years earlier, in 2009, Grace received the Harris Wofford Award in recognition of her efforts in gathering donations during the Sichuan earthquake.
Up to today, Grace is still amazed by how much her actions have impacted the lives of many. Humbled by all the things that she has achieved all throughout these years, Grace knows full well that there is still a lot that needs to be done. She has said this in an interview:
“Now, We Care Act has engaged over 20,000 people from 17 countries and helped over 14,000 kids recover from natural disasters. Even now, it's difficult to imagine how far we've come—and how much further we have to go. In the future, I’d like We Care Act to expand, and focus not just on disaster relief but education, since that’s a subject very close to my heart. I think the phrase that best summarizes my future goals is the quote: 'I don’t know where I’m going, but I hope to go far.'”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- We Care Act
- Letters to Japan
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Received the Harris Wofford Award from Youth Service America
- 2010: Named All-America High School Service Team by PARADE magazine
- 2010: Received the Daily Points of Light Award (We Care Act)
- 2010: Received the Collaborative Change Maker Award from the Gulfsouth Youth Action Fund (We Care Act)
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America
- 2012: Received the Power of Children Award from The Children’s Museum
- 2012: Honored as a White House Website Guest Blogger
- 2012: Included in the 16 Incredible Kids who are Saving the World by MSN.com (We Care Act)