On Saturday, The Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) celebrated the school’s annual Charity Bazaar, one of the biggest events of the year for the school. Notably, WAB’s Charity Bazaar is distinguished by the ways in which students engage with the local and international communities to work on issues and projects they care about. Three WAB students share what they did to help support causes this year.
Sean Lee (16) is a Grade 11 student from Korea. Sean worked with Profarmer, a company which supports rural farmers and produces sustainable coffee products. At the bazaar, Sean helped run a booth offering sustainable coffee products.
Arielle Zhao (17) is a Chinese student from Paris, France. Arielle worked with the Kuthor School/Wild Flowers, which helps orphaned children in Hubei Province. This year, the group aimed to sell Christmas trinkets and other small merchandise and raise some money to buy Christmas presents for the children.
Elise Zimmerman (16) is from San Diego, California. Elise worked with V-Group to support efforts to promote women’s rights and opportunities. The group sold some of Zimmerman’s homemade products, as well as other students’ paintings, patches, homemade cocoa, and cake mixes.
Tell us about your involvement in this year’s Charity Bazaar.
Sean: I joined the Profarmer club in my freshman year of high school and have been part of it ever since. The club does all kinds of work, from advertisement and sales to brainstorming projects and supporting rural and local development around China. This year, we have four executive team members, including myself, who will work together to improve the function of Profarmer.
Arielle: I usually take the role of the translator for the organization because I am fluent in Mandarin and can communicate with the leaders of the foster home in Hubei. We basically either raise funds or donate money to the foster home or use it to help provide facilities they are lacking. We also have a list of the kids’ birthdays and send gifts when their special day comes around or prepare presents for the kids during Christmas.
Elise: I’ve always been an animal person, but I had never really understood the extremities of animal testing for cosmetics until two summers ago. I did research and realized that, by law, all products manufactured or sold in China were required to be tested on animals. This is when I started making my own products. I first started an e-book of how to make your own skincare/hair care/household products and provided information about animal testing for my Grade 10 personal project. It’s called Beauty Without Cruelty in Beijing and it’s available for free download in the iTunes store. I sell the products because I think it’s a good way to raise awareness about one cause while raising money for another.
How did you choose to work with your organization?
Sean: The Profarmer Project started seven years ago when a group of students wanted to make a difference through fair trade. They were specifically focused on rural coffee farmers that weren’t paid enough and decided to buy their goods at a fair price. To do this, they got in contact with Arabica Roasters, a supplier of sustainable coffee products, which promised to purchase raw coffee at a fair-trade price from the farmers in the rural province of Yunnan. I had previously known the significance of fair trade and felt a unique connection with the club’s purpose. I really enjoy the fact that the club not only provides a service at WAB but also returns their profits back to the desperate farmers in the local community. I personally also enjoy selling and advertising products, and that made Profarmer a great opportunity for me to explore and expand on my interests.
Arielle: At first I joined because I needed to complete the service part of CAS (Creativity, Action Service requirement of the IB Programme), but as I became more and more involved, I found that it’s really inspiring how I’m able to directly affect and impact the lives of people so far away. Seeing their happiness and progress through pictures really inspired me to keep going and commit to this organization.
Elise: We currently work with a charity that supports women called Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC) We really wanted to work EGRC because we believe that it is unfair for girls to have less opportunity for education than boys. V-Group is all about feminism, taking away the negative connotations that the word sometimes gets, in order to bring it back to what it means to us: social, political, and economic equality between the sexes. We are really passionate about working with the EGRC because it’s a perfect example of what kind of change we want to make.
What are you trying to accomplish with your work?
Sean: Profarmer members work together on projects, advertisements, and organizing sales events so I hope to improve my teamwork and other technical skills. To the local community, Profarmer directly supports farmers from Yunnan and China through acquiring their goods at a fair price. To the larger global community, Profarmer promotes the concept of fair trade and aims to increase awareness of its significance.
Arielle: For me, the main purpose of service organizations is to contribute to the community and, ultimately, the global community. I believe that if we all focus completely on one task and make some sort of contribution, no matter how small, it will make a great difference. If each and every one of us can make a small difference, in the end, it will amount to a great difference. So what I am trying to accomplish is to contribute to a community of those who are less fortunate than I. This is important to me because, as a global citizen, I must be aware, involved, and responsible for my global community.
Photos: Courtesy of WAB, interviews by Chris Clark