SCH student founded a nonprofit that so far has raised $80,000 for a boarding school in the Yushu region of Tibet.
You don't have to talk to Haotian Yang for very long to realize he is an exceptional young man. The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy senior is only 17, but he has the maturity of someone at least twice his age.
Yang, an only child, came here with his mother three years ago from Nanjing, China. He was not fluent in English at the time, and the pair left his father, who runs a law firm in Nanjing, behind. Yang was offered a choice of California or Philadelphia as his school destination, and one visit to SCH sealed the deal. They now live a five-minute walk from school, and he has also joined an off-campus team that engages in a form of martial arts similar to Japanese sword fighting.
But the major reason for this article is that in the summer of 2020, Yang founded Yushu Reborn, a nonprofit that so far has raised $80,000 for a boarding school in the Yushu region of Tibet that houses, clothes, feeds and educates more than 200 children, all of whom are earthquake victims. The funds raised will also help to build a clinic in Yushu that offers free medical treatment to people in the area.
The boarding school students lost family members and all of their possessions in the spring of 2010, a result of a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Yushu that left 2,698 confirmed dead, 12,135 injured and 270 missing and presumed dead.
Yang, who is also a talented artist, is not Tibetan ethnically, but he visited Tibet three times last year, a very long trip from Chestnut Hill. “I have always been interested in art,” Yang told us in a Zoom interview, “and I had the opportunity to visit Tibet and see the magnificent Thangkas in the Gyegu Monastery. (Thangkas are Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting Buddhist deity figures.)
“During my search for more Thangkas art in Tibet, I came across Mr. Tsang Mai and his art studio. He suggested that I visit the Cixing School in Nangqian, and there I met the Yushu earthquake victims,” he said. “The young students are all Tibetans who want to be doctors. When I first heard about the program, I thought it was so wonderful that I wanted to do something to help them.”
Yang and an SCH junior, Philip Huang, who is in charge of video production, and other friends are trying to get corporate sponsors and grants for the art student earthquake victims in Tibet. After one year of trying, they got their first one, a charitable medical supply organization in China that provided money to build a solar heater. Before the grant, the art students could not take hot showers in the winter, which can get as cold as -22 degrees.
For another fundraising effort, on Monday, Jan. 10, Yang opened an exhibition of Tibetan students' art at the Barbara Crawford Gallery at SCH featuring “Thangka.” This exhibition, which will stay up until Feb. 10, is open to the public via appointment. Proceeds of the sale of the art will be donated to the boarding school in Yushu.
At SCH, Yang is a student in the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership program, a business incubator for innovative teens. “Even before the earthquake,” he said, “the region of Tibet we visited only had a very limited number of schools, which were completely demolished in the earthquake. I have been fortunate in my life to have access to family support and a world-class education, and I want to ensure that these children have the same sorts of opportunities that I have had.”
Yang said he had a hard time when he came to Chestnut Hill three years ago because of his limited command of English, but he has obviously made rapid progress since then. “Being with my mom made it easier,” he said, “and the CHA students have created a friendly, inclusive atmosphere. Life back home is not as different from life here as you might think. There is one big difference, though. Back home I can take a walk at 2 a.m. with no worries about crime. Here I would never do that.”
Yang has been accepted to next year's freshman class at Princeton University, one of the fewer than four percent of applicants who were. Yang will major in sociology and cultural anthropology.
For more information, visit yushureborn.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org