Volunteering in her community means a lot to Li Qing Wang. And through the Youth Now leadership program, run each year by Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG), 24-year-old Wang is able to give back while building community leadership skills for the future.
“I wanted to volunteer in the community, and I wanted to have a bit more of a leadership role in my volunteering,” she explains. “Prior to this I volunteered at various non-profit organizations where I was playing more of a supporting role.”
Wang has been volunteering since she was a teenager attending MacNeill secondary. After moving to Canada from China at age 13, she is grateful to her teachers for the help and support they provided, as well as the community to whom she wants to give back.
“When I was in Grade 10 is when I started volunteering as a first aider at my school, as well as in the community,” she remembers. “I just got certified to become a first aid instructor, because this is something I’m really passionate about. Since then, volunteering has brought me to various events like hockey tournaments, community events, sports events that otherwise I wouldn’t go to. It’s really exposed me to a lot of new experiences and new people.”
Believing volunteering is as much about giving as receiving, Wang says she gets a lot of support and warmth back from others when she volunteers. She’s also been able to learn a lot about life from other people.
After being admitted to medical school at UBC, Wang paused her volunteer work temporarily. But when the pandemic hit, she wanted to start giving back again. By that time, she had figured out her medical school schedule and had more free time.
After being a first aider for years, it’s perhaps fitting that Wang is in training to become a doctor—something she’s aspired to since she was 12. She’s especially interested in maternal fetal health.
“That’s my passion because personally I have experienced some difficult times throughout my life where the medical profession was there for me and (it) changed my life for the better,” she explains. “So I really want to be able to not only give back, but also really dig into this field and hopefully bring something that would change the way things are now, that will change people’s lives for the better.
“I’m very passionate about empowering women, and through the medical field I hope to be there and support them when they’re most vulnerable. In the community I want to empower women to achieve their fullest potential.”
The Youth Now program has several components, all of which have had to move online during the pandemic. During the monthly conferences, members discuss broad topics including board governance, strategic planning, fundraising and social media.
Each Youth Now member is also matched to a non-profit organization, and serves on its board to learn about the process. Wang is matched with the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre, and plans to continue working with that group next year.
“With the board, the biggest part is you get to carry out your own community projects,” she says. “There’s the freedom of coming up with project ideas by ourselves, with the full support of the board in terms of providing funding and resources to carry out the activity, social media and intellectual input into the planning of the project.”
Wang’s community project focuses on empowering female-identifying youth to pursue professional careers.
“As a female-identifying immigrant in this country pursuing a degree, I’ve gone through a lot of struggles myself and I just hope to help people through this community project, help youth through an early stage of their lives and careers to have the tools to help themselves when they encounter challenges further down the road,” she says.
The Youth Now team also works together on a video project, which this year has involved interviewing people from various non-profit organizations about their experiences during the pandemic. Their goal is “to highlight resilience in the community during the pandemic,” Wang explains.
“Social distancing and the initial closure of businesses created a lot of physical separation between people. We wanted to do a project that showcased the various ways people stayed connected or created new connections in the community,” she says. “This year the youth leaders are all really supportive and understanding of each other, even though we only worked together online. It’s a friendship that can continue into the future.”
Applications for the 2021-22 Youth Now program, open to high school graduates under age 28, are due Sept. 1. For more information, click here.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel