Youth Impact International is an International non-profit organization created by three Lynbrook High School siblings, Matthew, Mark and Jane Lee, whose mission is to improve the lives of the children they befriended while traveling in Tibet. Youth Impact’s first fundraising project was to write and sell a book titled Bridge to Tibet which documents the Lees’ life changing experiences in Tibet.
With the relative success of this first fundraising project, what started off as one project, soon expanded into a grand vision of an international organization, based on the power of youth to impact the World. Youth Impact has now spread to other schools in the Fremont Union High School District, multiple cities in the United States and has Chapters in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Together, these chapters embarked upon a second journey and created a second book titled Bridge to Yunnan.
In order to share their story and the lives of those they wish to help, we will be presenting a 3 part series on the amazing journey of Youth Impact.
Part I: Bridge to Tibet
Part II: Bridge to Yunnan
Part III: Images and Reflections
The stories you will read and the images you will see are those of Matthew, Mark and Jane Lee as well as other volunteers they have recruited to help in their cause. These are their words, their stories, their photographs; all taken from their books Bridge to Tibet and Bridge to Yunnan.
If you would like to learn more about Youth Impact or purchase a copy of one of their books, please visit the website at www.youthii.org/ .
PART I: BRIDGE TO TIBET
This book serves as a bridge, that we hope will connect you and the Tibetan world, so that you may imagine the stories of those who live there. And you’re already on the bridge. All you have to do is to follow up on your thoughts with your actions…the door is already opened for you – just walk through it. Let your actions pass over the bridge and into the next world.
By Matthew Lee
YAY, IT’S TIBET!
On a bright day before summer, my parents made the final decision: we would be going to Tibet. My brother, sister, and I weren't as excited as they were, but once we heard the mysterious stories of Tibet, we were immediately hooked: stories say that some people got really sick, and others even died in Tibet from the extremely high altitude, and sure did I want to try my luck! Of course, I didn't die from the trip, but I did have a great time. My older brother, younger sister and I are here today to tell you about our wonderful story…This book is filled with our experiences and adventures during our short time in Tibet.
By Mark Lee
“This was how Tibetans greeted us – with gifts from their hearts.”
WE ARE IN LHASA
As we exited the airport, we were immediately welcomed by our tour guide, who seemed to be expecting us. He greeted us with a warm smile, which was contagious, because we replied with smiles unconsciously. Around his arm were five white scarves, made of smooth silky material, that hung elegantly to the ground. Moments later, we found those silky white Tibetan scarves around each of our necks. This was how Tibetans greeted us - with gifts from their hearts. With that, we climbed, for our first time, into a small gray van, slid the door shut, and drove off down Lhasa's main street.
By Matthew Lee
“It seems that somebody might’ve died last night.”
OUR FIRST CREEPY NIGHT
It was a dark, calm night when we prepared to go to sleep. It was the time when we began our adventure in our dreams. Silently, the sky darkened, marking midnight. Through the middle of the night we held pleasant smiles on our faces, sleeping in the deep Tibetan beds at the hotel.
Just before the sun rose – it was much too early for us to wake up – shouts cried out three stories below our chambers. Different voices took turns crying out loud the same short phrase repetitively, as if the people were selling goods at a market. We were troubled because we had just been awakened from our slumber, but we ignored it and attempted to fall back asleep.
When morning came, we woke from our interrupted sleep, rubbed our eyes and got out of bed. We were furious at the shouting Tibetans that night, but were too tired to complain. Instead, we dressed, traveled downstairs, and there we met our tour guide. “What was that ruckus last night?” we asked him. The tour guide responded not through words, but instead he decided that a picture was worth a thousand words, and brought us outside to see what had actually happened. “It seems that somebody might’ve died last night,” he said. He continued to explain, “The people who were shouting last night were trying to guide the spirit of the dead. The people drew on the ground a path out of chalk to guide the spirit of their dead relative out of the dark and small alleyways and onto the main road, so the spirit wouldn’t enter the house. The chalk was said to lead the spirits and to mark the path it will travel, so the spirits won’t take a detour.”
As we walked to the van, ready for our adventure that day, I looked on the ground. Even the drain had a chalk ring around it. The Tibetans sure were careful. I finally understood that maybe I shouldn’t have felt angry towards the people shouting last night. Instead, as we climbed onto the van, I thought, “An hour sleep lost. So what?”
By Mark Lee
“The Children are so grateful…”
We were riding in the Car for several hours on the way to the train station. Just as I was starting to doze off, the car came to a stop. I looked around, and there were some buildings scattered across the road - it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Later, I learned that these buildings were orphanages. I thought to myself, “… I better get ready to pay close attention to this last chance of visiting a Tibetan orphanage.”
When I entered the elementary building of the orphanage, laughter filled the room, and young children scurried along the floor, playing with each other. I sympathized for those kids who played on the unpaved, rocky ground, wearing dirty, tattered clothing. Then, I looked around. Out in the corner, away from the rest of the crowd, knelt a little boy who looked much younger than the ones playing, wringing out a wet shirt. He was standing by a stone tub that looked much like a well, and was washing piles and piles of clothes which were probably not just his own. A few moments later, the kids' playtime was over and everyone started to head back inside. Interested in their education, I walked inside of the classroom contemplating what I had just seen.
After visiting so many orphanages and schools, I noticed one characteristic overall. Everyone was always so hard working in class, and satisfied with the entertainment. They are living such humble lives, and although being humble is good, I feel that they deserve something more - something that many other people take for granted. They are so hard working, yet they are not receiving the proper education that will help them learn best. The children are so grateful to have a room to dance and sing in, but have never experienced more. Something to connect them to the outside world would solve these problems and bring so much joy to all the orphans in Tibet.
By Jane Lee
"I, too, once did not understand the lives of children across the world.”
THE VILLAGE SCHOOL
After I got off the van, I stepped around and stretched a little bit, and my peripheral vision returned to me. I looked around - almost everything was green, brown, blue, or white, and I was amazed at how well those colors went together. It was the average person's definition of paradise (or at least my definition, but I'm considered average, so it is average): ongoing hills of green with fresh grass that didn't prick your skin, with an occasional tree or two for shade, and streams of clear water. There was a brick wall next to the parked van. It was the wall of a school in the rural village. Before I walked into the door, I had no presuppositions, except that the students in the school lived in such a beautiful land. Then we walked through the door.
There was a large, spacious courtyard, and children chased each other around it. On the opposite side, there were two raggedy buildings, which served as the classroom areas for the children...Around a dozen students filed into the room, and took their seats in flimsy wooden desks that wobbled. We entered behind them, and as the teacher took her place in the front, we inspected our surroundings and noted that almost everything was old and worn out. The blackboard was merely a portion of the wall painted black, and the only source of light was the sun that shone through the windows. The ground was organic; it was the same dirt that we trudged on outside. The educational materials were inadequate. The books were clearly outdated and not on par with the standard. The teacher commenced the class by writing several Tibetan words onto the blackboard. Although I couldn't see them, I wasn't sure if it was because of my poor eyesight or because of the poor quality of the blackboard. Since there was an inadequate amount of books, the students resorted to rote oratory learning. The Tibetan students had great potential; unfortunately, they did not have enough resources to show it.
I thought back, for a second, to the schools in developed countries. Even the poorest of those have necessities: tables, chairs, books, stationary, lighting, etc. A majority of the schools have heating and air conditioning, whereas the Tibetan children have to attend school in the most extreme weather, because Tibet exists at such a high altitude. Imagine them on a hot and sticky afternoon, with numerous fleets of bugs whizzing around in the air. Or on a cold and dark morning, where sheets of pure white snow cover the courtyard outside, and the students are shivering inside, warming their numb hands with their short breaths. Little do students in developed countries, including me, understand that there existed students-much like and unlike us, on the other face of the globe who do not experience as rich of a life as ours. And I say "understand" because people know that there are others worse off than them-it's just a matter of understanding that level of "worse off." I know this because I, too, once did not understand the lives of children across the world. Until I experienced a tiny slice of their lives firsthand, I did not really bother to take the matter into consideration.
The sun was beginning to scorch the tips of the mountain range. As the meeting with the teacher concluded, we stepped outside and saw the children, still playing in the courtyard. We saw them from a different perspective, though. After a quick team photo, we waved goodbye to the children, and walked through the same door once again. And then the tiny gray van sped away into the distance.
by Matthew Lee