While some of his peers spent the summer vacationing at the beach or tanning seaside, Ean Huang was helping the Szechwan province of China recover from a massive earthquake that claimed almost 200 lives and left 12,000-15,000 injured.
The Holy Spirit Preparatory School senior has spent the past two summers in the village of Ya’an, aiding in earthquake relief endeavors in a multitude of ways, from teaching elementary school to making site visits to organizing a benefit concert.
After viewing news reports on the April 2013 disaster, Ean was struck by the massive destruction and was immediately driven to act. After being turned down by several earthquake relief agencies, Ean was placed with a non-governmental organization, Ingenious Love, which assigned him to volunteer in Ya’an. Ean’s volunteer duties included teaching English and history to elementary school classes as large as 50 students each as well as making home visits to victims to determine the level of aid they would receive.
Now emotionally invested in the fate of the villagers, Ean returned the next summer and found his work was far from finished. Struck by the poverty the earthquake had left in its wake, Ean organized a concert to raise funds for relief efforts; his work included recruiting musicians, finding sponsors, advertising the event, announcing the acts, and playing the introductory piano piece. The hard work paid off: The concert raised around $54,866 American dollars for relief efforts.
Ean finds volunteering to be an essential duty for teenagers.
“Personally, I think, as teenagers, we definitely have some responsibility for society, and we are gradually learning to take on more as we become young adults,” he said. “We need to learn how to contribute more, but not just take everything for granted. Additionally, the happiness gained through hard work of volunteering cannot be gained from any other personal achievement. What’s more, volunteering helps us to build up practical skills we can hardly get from school.”
Ean’s hard work is not limited to volunteering, as his teachers describe him as an exceptional student possessing both great intellect and strong character.
“One of the best ways to describe Ean is as a person that consistently rises to the challenge,” said Holy Spirit Social Studies teacher Christopher Oppermann, who taught Ean Western Civilization his junior year and is currently teaching him AP Macroeconomics. “Both in and out of the classroom, Ean is a clear leader. Not only does he have a generous heart for helping others, but he also has a keen mind that allows him to put his generosity into action. At Holy Sprit Prep, we are very proud of Ean, and are confident that he will continue to be a shining example of true servant leadership as he moves on to college.”
While the external effects, such as the money raised, of Ean’s charity work may be easier to see, the internal results are equally as significant.
“I have really learned a lot from the experience and it really altered my value toward life,” Ean said. “I give more respect to and cherish more what I have since then and value success more than just personal achievements.”
Ean has applied to a dozen colleges and will make his decision this spring. He plans to major in engineering and continue volunteering in college. Additionally, he is going to Szechwan again this summer to further aid the earthquake victims.
This article was written by Catherine Benedict, a student at The Westminster Schools.