One woman’s phil­an­thropic cause to help Chi­nese stu­dents abroad

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -


Wang Li­hong said peo­ple were sur­prised when they heard she was en­gaged in phi­lan­thropy.

“They said char­ity is a busi­ness of rich peo­ple, as it costs money,” Wang re­called. “But I be­lieve it is for ev­ery­body, whether rich or poor. Even if I have only 100 yuan ($16), I can help oth­ers.”

In 2011, she started of­fer­ing free job con­sul­tancy to Chi­nese stu­dents study­ing abroad. In April of that year, she or­ga­nized a di­a­logue be­tween com­pa­nies and Chi­nese stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.

“About 50 Chi­nese stu­dents took part, and I in­vited com­pany heads from Huawei and China Uni­com’s US of­fices to talk face to face about job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the US and back in China,” she said.

In the fol­low­ing months, she con­tin­ued such events at more univer­si­ties in Cal­i­for­nia.

Her in­ter­est in help­ing Chi­nese stu­dents in the US was inspired when she hosted an ed­u­ca­tion ra­dio pro­gram in Chi­nese in Sil­i­con Val­ley in 2011.

“On the pro­gram, I in­vited some stu­dent guests to talk about their lives and stud­ies in the US and found they all had big con­cerns about jobs in the US,” she said.

“They were anx­ious and ur­gently needed some con­nec­tions with en­ter­prises, for in­tern­ship and job op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to Wang, it’s hard for Chi­nese grad­u­ates to find job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the US, ex­cept for a small group of stu­dents who are out­stand­ing in aca­demics and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“Things are even harder for stu­dents study­ing non­tech­ni­cal ma­jors such as busi­ness and law, and the ma­jor­ity have to re­turn to China,” she said.

Af­ter a year, she found

it more help­ful to share facts with stu­dents be­fore they em­barked on their US ed­u­ca­tion.

So she switched her fo­cus back to China and in 2012 started run­ning the Sino-US Ed­u­ca­tion and Ca­reer Fo­rum on an an­nual ba­sis.

“Ev­ery year, I con­trib­ute up to $10,000 to pre­pare the fo­rum and stay here for about two months,” she said. “The money is partly from my work as a teacher in af­ter-school cen­ters in the US.”

But to do phi­lan­thropy in China is not a smooth road.

One week be­fore the fo­rum on June 6 in Bei­jing, she was sud­denly told that the venue for the event was not avail­able. She had to find another place and con­tact par­tic­i­pants.

“I have to han­dle those un­ex­pected things once in a while,” she said.

At the last minute, she got a free space in the Bei­jing Plan­e­tar­ium.

Plan­e­tar­ium di­rec­tor Zhu Jin, who has been one of Wang’s friends for years, said, “It is very dif­fi­cult to do such events in Bei­jing, as the city is over­flow­ing with events and hardly at­tract peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.”

The fo­rum, although well-or­ga­nized with pro­fes­sion­als from en­ter­prises and ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, drew a small au­di­ence.

Que Dengfeng, the pres­i­dent and co-founder of Juesh­eng, a web­site pro­mot­ing study op­por­tu­ni­ties in the US to the Chi­nese mar­ket, is a vol­un­teer at the fo­rum. He said, “In China, peo­ple are aware that do­ing free public ser­vices is like be­ing a mar­tyr, be­cause it re­quires pour­ing money into it and con­vinc­ing oth­ers to be­lieve in you and be­lieve what you are do­ing is not to make prof­its.”

He said Wang is per­sis­tent and civic-minded, and that is why he wanted to join her.

The 45-year-old talked fast, even for a Chi­nese per­son, and had a sense of pas­sion that can ap­pear blunt.

In 1996, when she was 26, she moved to the US with her for­mer hus­band. She at­tended lo­cal school to study English and went to a com­mu­nity col­lege to study ed­u­ca­tion.

Af­ter about a decade of work­ing at af­ter-school cen­ters teach­ing Chi­nese and math­e­mat­ics, she ap­plied for a job as a ra­dio an­chor when she was 40. Although she was only in the po­si­tion for two years, she in­creas­ingly built so­cial re­la­tions thanks to her flair for net­work­ing, which also con­trib­utes to her cur­rent work in non­profit pro­grams.

“I like to be un­der the spotlight, and I’m not used to ac­cept­ing the sta­tus quo,” she said.

Wang Jun, the cul­tural coun­selor at the Chi­nese con­sulate gen­eral in San Fran­cisco, said Wang is en­thu­si­as­tic in pro­mot­ing public good and has con­trib­uted to the cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional ex­changes be­tween the two coun­tries.

Her latest ac­tiv­ity is the mini­fo­rum at the China Con­ser­va­tory to talk about art stu­dents’ lives in over­seas ed­u­ca­tion, and she plans to speak at more schools in Bei­jing.

“We are still at the bud­ding stage, but I be­lieve, as I keep work­ing on the public mat­ters, more peo­ple will join us.”


Wang Li­hong

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