Yulia Yan on Providing Scholarships Through Shanghai Sunrise

By Ned Kelly, November 18, 2020

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Yulia Yan has lived in China since 2007, first studying Mandarin in Harbin and then moving to Shanghai where she started her career in international sales, business development and cross-cultural project management. Looking to give back, she began volunteering for Shanghai Sunrise after a board member introduced her to the charity in 2018. Earlier this year, she took up the role as Executive Director.

What does Shanghai Sunrise do?
Shanghai Sunrise creates access to education through scholarship programs. We’re a volunteer-led charity committed to helping underprivileged Shanghai youth. In China, education is only free until the 9th grade. We provide educational scholarships to promising students from low-income families who require financial assistance to continue their high school and university education. Our goal is to empower our graduates to realize fulfilling careers and become positive forces in their communities.

What does your new role entail?
Since I started with Shanghai Sunrise, it has been such a great experience working with a team of like-minded people from different backgrounds – all united by the same cause. So, when I was offered the role as Executive Director earlier this year, I didn’t hesitate long and said yes.

As Executive Director I make sure all aspects of the organization are managed in accordance with the Shanghai Sunrise charter and strategic plan. In addition, I lead both a small professional staff and a team of committed volunteers. In this role I am the link between the Board of Directors, our office staff and our core volunteers, and I see to it that all sides are on the same page. So basically, I am the spider at the center of the web, ensuring all parts of the organization are connected and everyone is aligned and knows what we are doing and how we are doing it.

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How much has the coronavirus situation affected your charity work and fundraising activities?
The pandemic has definitely affected our work; many of our sponsors – among them individuals, corporations and other organizations – have been affected financially, which means some of them will not be able to continue their support of our scholarship program. 

During these hard times, we are all the more grateful for the ongoing contributions by so many of our partners and sponsors. Several have even generously made additional donations to make sure none of the students currently receiving a Shanghai Sunrise scholarship have to drop out of high school or university this upcoming school year.

In addition, the long standstill of public life put our fundraising activities on hold. 100% of scholarship donations go to the students, so we depend on separately raising funds for our program expenses.

What changes have you made to deal with the circumstances?
When our public activities were on hold during the first half of this year, our volunteers used the time to reflect on our work and improve our internal processes. As life in Shanghai came back to a new normal, we were happy to welcome new volunteers to our team. 

With this increased manpower, we aim to raise more awareness about us by sharing compelling stories and videos about our activities on our social media channels. We also want to strengthen our partnerships in the local community and are always planning exciting fundraising events, including an exclusive photo exhibition and art auction by our longtime supporter Astrid Krehan.

How can people get involved with Shanghai Sunrise?

There are several ways to get involved:

1.Become a sponsor! Give a disadvantaged student in Shanghai a chance at a brighter future: with just RMB3,000 per year you can ensure a student in need can stay in high school.

2.Donate for your birthday! Give the gift of education: Gather your friends and family to celebrate your special day while making a difference. Ask everyone to send you a donation instead of birthday gifts this year.

3.Volunteer with us! If you believe in the power of education to transform lives, we need you: volunteering with Shanghai Sunrise is an opportunity to share your talents, develop new skills, build your professional network and make new connections.

For more on Shanghai Sunrise click here or scan the QR code:

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