Despite being quarantined in Amman, Yining Wang ’22 led his team to victory in the 2020 Public Benefit International Challenge for Youth (PBICY) Competition.
Yining Wang ’22 was just a young child when he accompanied his family on a trip to a remote mountain village in China. Wang’s uncle had asked him to bring his used books to give to children in the village. The children were so excited to receive the books that they were jumping for joy. That memory made a strong impression on Wang, and as he grew older it inspired him to do more to help others.
A few years later, Wang attended a summer camp where each child was encouraged to have a dream that was “great, selfless and positive.” Inspired by his past experience, Wang knew that his dream was to be the “greatest philanthropist in the world.”
On a quest to achieve that dream, in 2016 Wang established a volunteer initiative called Green Leaves and encouraged all of his classmates to join. Their first mission was to head to a local city park in Beijing and approach passersby to ask them to donate their used books. After some initial success, Wang widened his scope and cast his net further, asking neighborhood residence committees and other institutions to donate secondhand books and clothes. Over the last four years, Wang and the Green Leaves volunteers have collected around 25,000 secondhand books and over 10,000 items of used clothes that they donated to various schools, orphanages and villages around the country.
Currently a junior at King’s Academy, Wang was back in China during the summer of 2020 waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic with his family. With time on his hands and looking for ways to make an impact, Wang decided to enter the annual Public Benefit International Challenge for Youth (PBICY) Competition.
The PBICY Competition aims to build closer ties with Africa by challenging Chinese youth between the ages of 10 and 17 to come up with innovative ideas to solve societal problems. This year, under the theme “zero hunger, good health, quality education and gender equality,” 12 teams made it to the final round where they pitched their proposals for projects that tackle issues such as medical care, clean water and gender equality.
Forming a team with two fellow members of the Green Leaves volunteers, Yuling Li and Jiaxin Hu Wang developed a proposal inspired by a service trip he took in the summer of 2019 to Nairobi, Kenya where he worked as a volunteer teacher for three weeks at an orphanage called the Children’s Garden Home and School.
“I went with an organization called TUNZA Africa International Volunteers — tunza means 'to take care of' in Swahili,” says Wang. “I taught the kids Chinese and Chinese poetry. They loved learning, but the conditions there aren’t good. They all have dreams to learn more and to get good jobs, but they don’t have the resources to make those dreams come true.”
Wang’s proposal aims to tackle female unemployment in Nairobi by providing vocational training to orphaned girls between the ages of 14 and 18 to furnish them with marketable skills.
Women in Kenya are often limited to taking on traditional roles and jobs, explains Wang, so in addition to providing training on more basic skills, he also wants to help girls achieve their dreams to pursue less traditional jobs. By communicating with TUNZA Africa and the orphanage he had volunteered at over the summer, Wang was able to identify a number of basic and useful vocational skills. The orphanage also helped him identify girls with bigger dreams.
“For example, a girl called Tina wants to be an excavator driver,” says Wang. “I never expected a dream like that, but that’s her dream! So we are going to send her to a center where she can gain those skills.”
The project will offer training courses on basic skills such as sewing, cooking and computer skills — and also donate computers. Additionally, the project will support young women like Tina taking specialized courses at local training centers. Wang’s team also approached a lot of Chinese companies working in Kenya to ask them to help by offering jobs to the girls they train.
Not only does each PBICY team have to develop a project proposal, they must also raise funds for it. The planned budget for the Green Leaves project was estimated at 29,000 RMB (US $4,250), but they ended up raising over double that amount, with 81,000 RMB (US $11,870).
“Not only did we approach people close to us, family and friends, but as my father works at a bank and has a lot of clients in big companies, I asked him to take me to those companies to talk directly to them,” says Wang. “Some refused to see me but others were happy to meet with me, and 16 companies were willing to help in the end.”
The proposal won Wang and his team first place in the PBICY Competition. The final stage of the competition took place in Beijing on August 15, 2020. Wang was at the time completing a 14-day government-mandated quarantine in a hotel in Amman in order to return to King’s for the start of the school year. Despite that, he managed to participate online in the final round of the competition and help his team take home the gold medal.
“We only have three team members and I am the captain, so I was sorry not to be with my team in person at the final stage,” says Wang. “I tried my best to help them prepare and practice for the presentation and questions in the battle round. They did so well, I’m so proud of them. I also recorded a video of myself introducing our team and the project, so I was able to be there in that way.”
In addition to their team being interviewed about their win by various local newspapers, the final stage of the competition was covered live by the China Global Television Network (CGTN), which Wang hopes will raise even more attention and support for their project.
The Green Leaves team will implement the project in Nairobi with the help of Wang’s mentors at TUNZA Africa, but in the meantime Wang plans to address more urgent issues that have surfaced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To start with, I think we should help the Children’s Garden Home and School get through the pandemic,” says Wang. “They are lacking food and basic essentials because of COVID-19.
We raised over double the project’s planned budget, so we can do a lot more to help them.”