Chinese-Canadians students bring charitable causes home

May 7, 2016

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

For Grade 9 student Tony Dai, the story started with a chance meeting during a volunteer stint at B.C. Children’s Hospital last year.

“My big brother Bill and I, we started with helping kids who had just finished surgery, telling jokes and keeping their spirits up,” Dai said. “And we kept hearing this name, ‘Casey,’ from hospital staff. Then, we met him.”

“Casey” is Casey Wright, a 15-year-old who has battled cancer since he was six months old, and was just beginning to recover from an operation to remove a brain tumour. Seeing Wright’s daily struggles — he was paralyzed along his right side following the operation and had to relearn how to swallow, speak and walk — made a huge impression on Dai.

“He really needed a lot of help, and we found out the current equipment at the hospital isn’t quite up to date to his needs,” he said.

Dai and four friends (Gary Xin, Thomas Wang, Andrea Wang and Andrew Hu, all under age 15 and from either St. George’s School in Vancouver or Collingwood in West Vancouver) formed the Hand In Hand Society, a group dedicated to fundraising for child-related charitable causes. In two years, they have raised $38,000 for the hospital — $18,000 last year, and $20,000 so far this year.

Debora Sweeney, vice president of the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, said that while students frequently contribute through school programs and individual donations, the scale of a coordinated effort like Hand In Hand is rare.

“What really stands out with this group is a new level of professionalism,” said Sweeney, noting that Hand In Hand’s main source of fundraising is an annual concert drawing hundreds of friends, family and community members. “Organizing a concert is not easy. To be able to take that on — and not just to do it once — takes enormous effort. And they’ve thought everything through, and taken everything through to fruition.”

What’s also remarkable was how Hand In Hand members were able to bring their message of charity and community service home. All five students are from relatively recent Chinese-immigrant families, a community that tends to stay within its cultural cluster.

“When we’re at school or at home, it’s like living in a bubble sometimes,” Xin said. “But once you actually go and see some of the things you see at hospitals, it can really get you motivated. The patients’ experiences really hit home when you see it first-hand.”

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