Albert Lam raised money for hurricane relief


As the child of two Vietnam War immigrants born in America, I grew up sheltered, taking my good fortune for advantage. Only until I visited Vietnam did I realize that my life is amazing. I visited and volunteered at a Vietnamese special needs orphanage, distributing goods. Honestly, it was horrific. Around me were disabled adults and children alike, in their own waste. Disease and disorders discriminates to none. As my trip to Vietnam concluded, I left compelled to create positive change on a greater scale. They say in disastrous moments, one may also find opportunity. I found an opportunity to create positive change last September when I initiated a fundraising campaign for Hurricane Harvey. Seeing pictures of the aftermath left me in silence, but it was something more personal that convinced me to act. I overheard my mom talking to her friend from Houston, worried that her friend was in danger. Luckily, she was ok, but on the verge of tears in absolute, paralyzing fear. It was then that I decided I had to do something, fast. I immediately ordered a huge number of personalized pencils online, and had a conservative initial goal of $200. My dad told me to dream big, so I went for $500. One thing led to another, and I ended up raising $16,000, which was matched by WE Charity for a total of over $32,000! I was thrilled, but simultaneously overwhelmed. I learned to work efficiently, and suppress reactive emotions in order to manage the logistics of receiving thousands of donations. Every donation was to be logged, and every donor was to receive their receipt. Even if the donor wasn’t planning on deducting $5 off their taxes, getting a receipt to each and every person was a standard I wanted to uphold. I feel extremely proud and fortunate to say that I was a catalyst for positive change. Many news outlets that interviewed me asked me how I did it on my own. My response was this: my project didn’t succeed due to the actions of myself alone, but the immense generosity and support of a community. The kudos, I said, went to everyone out there. I didn’t do the service project for any personal gain, but I ended up learning so much along the way. Social impact fills one with a very specific sense of fulfillment.

— Albert Lam, 19, Washington