Q&A With March HALO Effect Honoree: Christopher Yao
It's the beginning of the month, and that means it's time to celebrate those who Help And Lead Others!
Meet Christopher Yao: Our HALO Effect honoree for the month of March and an embodiment of what the HALO Effect is all about. He is driven, compassionate, wise beyond his years, and truly dedicated to the principle of spreading social change!
Christopher gave us some exclusive insight into his remarkable work with Kids Change the World, a non-profit organization that he founded to empower youth to take global issues into their own hands. Read his full bio here, and check out our Q&A below!
Congratulations on your HALO Effect honors! Tell us a little bit about your non-profit organization, Kids Change the World. How did you think of the idea? Has the organization evolved over time?
I was diagnosed with a class III malocclusion [a severe misalignment of teeth] in 6th grade, and I was terrified of the expected gradual worsening of the condition. If I left it untreated, I would not be able to speak or eat properly. During my research about my own physical condition, I came across online images of children with cleft lips and palates. I could relate to how they felt. In developing countries, these children are thought to be "cursed" by God and are often abandoned by their own families. Without corrective surgeries, the prospect of a job, marriage, and a normal life is nil. I knew I had to do something, if even just to help one child.
So, I decided to organize the first annual summer Read-A-Thon in 6th grade. By the summer's end, to my surprise, I had raised $1,000—four times my initial goal! Since then, my efforts have supported over 70 cleft lip and palate surgeries in China, Mexico, India, and other developing countries.
Encouraged by the power of youth, I founded Kids Change the World to empower them to also serve in their communities.
Kids Change the World has grown into one of the world's leading youth-led civic organizations. What is one of the biggest obstacles you've had to face on your journey to success, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle was having others take me, a 10-year old [at the time], seriously. Countless times I had attempted to solicit donations from community members or groups only to be told to "go back to playing in the sandbox" because of my age. However, I didn't let that stop me.
Over the years, those comments have become the exact encouragement that has fueled my work. I wanted to prove to myself that they were wrong. At the end of the day, I know people are counting on me—my work changes lives, families, and communities; I know my ability to have a positive impact is a gift to be used to its fullest every day.
If someone wanted to get involved with Kids Change the World, what would be his or her first step?
Kids Change the World is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging and enabling young people to volunteer and create positive social change in their communities. Volunteers can visit our website to join our hard-working team, participate in one of our programs, or utilize our grassroots resources to further their charitable initiatives. We are always eager to support young people who are determined and self-motivated to make a positive societal impact.
Your first fundraiser was directed towards funding cleft surgeries for kids around the world. What other causes does your organization support? And how did you choose them?
Our volunteers, patients, and students continually make suggestions and solicit our support towards countless worthy causes.
Among our many programs, the Education Preparation project has distributed hundreds of school supplies, planners, and other educational resources to students around the globe. Its website serves as a hub of learning with custom-made educational videos, sample curricula, worksheets, and links to other resources.
Furthermore, Kids Change the World supports children in clinics, orphanages, and partner hospitals around the world by providing moral support and encouragement through uplifting cards and gifts.
Kids Change the World was founded on the principle of encouraging and enabling others to take action in order to create a domino effect of people helping others. With every person helped, there is one more person to pass another good deed onto someone else.
Kids Change the World is based on the vision that young people are capable of not only making a difference, but of changing the world. What would you say to someone who challenges the belief that kids' voices are meant to be heard?
Young people are our future, as they will create policies and make decisions about public health, education, politics, the environment, and more.
It's also important to remember that there is no minimum requirement of wealth, status, or age to change the world. The fact is, any positive action, no matter how big or small, makes a difference either in the life of another or as an example to follow. I often remind other young people like me to remember: "No dreamer is ever too small; no dream is ever too big."
Do you know any truly inspiring teens who are making an impact like Christopher? Nominate them here!