Over 200 projects are in progress, 162 lives have been saved and nearly $150,000 has been raised by the East Villagers to help rural villages around the world. Student interns and volunteers from across Northern California have banded together to fight prominent social injustices in countries such as China, Africa and Cambodia.
The East Villagers Non-profit Organization is an “online community,” in which the interns and volunteers connect NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, to donors and supporters who can help their cause. The organization raises awareness of its work through social platforms, like Facebook and its website (news.eastvillagers.org), and through events, such as charity dinners.
Steve Ko, the local supervisor of the interns currently working with the East Villagers, strongly believes that students can “spread ideas like wildfire” through technology and took upon the role of restructuring the internship program.
Junior Emily Cheng’s parents introduced her to the organization after receiving an email about the internship from the founders, the Chao family. As she slowly learned more about the East Villagers’ vision, Emily felt inclined to help the people suffering from these problems. In October of last year, Emily decided to become an intern with the East Villagers as her first step toward making a difference.
“So many of [China’s] government are pretty corrupt and don’t allow a lot of charity organizations to thrive,” Emily said.
Junior Kevin Mo joined the East Villagers in November as an intern after journeying to Belize on a mission trip with his church in 2011. After interacting with the children there, he became interested in how he could help on a greater scale.
All of the interns are involved in NGOs under the Transparent Fish Fund and Little Red Scarf, two East Villagers subsections. These two sections in the Bay Area support NGOs ranging from psychological issues to rural education with projects such as raising funds for student aid and helping pay heart surgery bills.
“I check for updates on specific NGOs that I’m assigned to,” Kevin said. “[My boss] makes us ambassadors to certain NGOs.”
Interns spend four hours a week every Saturday working at what they call “the office” in downtown Palo Alto. They gather around a large table and spend their time on tasks such as translating articles in foreign languages into English to publish on their website. Through their translations, interns make the articles and their messages more accessible to others around the world.
Volunteers such as junior Eric Wu provide more direct support for the organization than online members but aren’t as active as interns. The volunteers have attended one event at Stanford Shopping Center where shoppers were introduced to the East Villagers and their vision.
The organization has garnered support with over 3,000 members registered worldwide. Many sign up to show their support and read the blog entries and translated articles that the interns and other volunteers post.
“I’m really quite surprised that there’s that much support,” Kevin said.
Over 350 NGOs are gaining funds and support from this global network of members and Ko believes that the students’ dedication and hard work helps the East Villagers succeed.
“After all, it is the job of students to observe, inhale information and learn,” Ko said.
The interns are currently creating a documentary about their experiences working for East Villagers. In June, the seven current interns will be reaching the end of their contracts, so the documentary also serves as an introduction to the East Villagers for the next set of students who receive the internship after applying in the fall. Re-application is possible for students who wish to continue their internship.
Since the other interns have lived “a sheltered life” and what Ko refers to as “monotonous routines of a comfortable and gluttonous lifestyle” here in America, they all believe that this internship has had positive effects on their lives. They have been introduced to new perspectives and new people who have similar passions.
“There must be something about high school students that enable them to have so much energy and vitality … nothing seems impossible,” Ko said.