As other students prepare for exams or crank out those last pages on their final papers, Wendy Chan has her mind focused elsewhere: the Students Helping Honduras Walkathon. This weekend she hopes to mobilize students to help raise money for a scholarship fund for the girls of the Copprome Orphanage. Chan’s college career, from her involvements in Alpha Phi Omega, SHH, Service Leader Corps and Global Village Project, is marked by compassion and service. Her commitment to the community has served as an impetus for growth in service at the College, and her selfless, humble personality underscores her altruistic motivations. This week’s “That Girl” talks about her difficult move to the United States and her commitment to Honduras and the kids.
Did your parents instill your passion for service in you? Did other people play a factor?
No, I don’t think so. My dad loves children and would always offer his seat on the bus to older people, but they’ve never talked about service or done projects with me. I think it was more something that I developed as the opportunities came up.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hong Kong and I lived there until I was 10 with my two younger sisters. My dad was a professional soccer player and my mom worked on the administrative side of Marks & Spencer.
What was it like living there?
Oh my God, it was amazing … best place on earth. It’s similar to New York City in that it is very busy and crowded with people. I miss it a lot, actually.
Why did you decide to come to the States and was the move difficult?
My mom wanted me to learn English, and yes, I suppose. I didn’t see my mom for four years and my dad for six. I hated my first year here and actually thought about leaving. Kids are not nice in 5th grade. The lifestyle here, or at least in New Jersey, was also much slower; you can’t get anywhere without a car and there really isn’t much to do for a 10-year-old. But I weighed my options and stuck it out.
Did you ever consider going back to Hong Kong for college?
No, I never considered Hong Kong for school because there’s really only one university and the universities in America are much more world-renowned. I was deciding between NYU and William and Mary.
How did you get involved in SSH?
Cosmo [Fujiyama ’07] made a presentation in APO meeting one day and handed out these little flyers with envelopes attached to them. She was raising money for a water purification system and said if every APO brother put in $4 and asked two friends to do the same, we’d have enough money to do the project. I did my part and e-mailed her to say I’d be interested in sending them to more people if she wanted. Instead, she invited me to her meeting, during which she further explained her involvement and then showed a video her brother had made which made me cry. At the end of the meeting, she said that if anybody wanted, she had a few spots for students to go to Honduras that May. I jumped on it before I even asked my parents, and the rest is history.
What are you currently working on within SHH?
We have our walkathon next weekend. We are trying to raise $250,000 to build a transition home for the young women who graduate from Copprome [Orphanage] and start an endowment fund for college scholarships, because once a girl graduates from high school and enters the real world of either university or jobs, they cannot live at Copprome anymore.
What is one thing that few others, if any, know about you?
I hold a British passport, so I guess I am British? Hong Kong used to belong to Britain and I left before it went back to China, so I hold a British national overseas passport.
If I were to be your shadow for a day, what might I find out about you?
That I am a horrible student. [Laughs] I go to classes, but I end up doing e-mails in them instead of paying attention, and then I spend the rest of the day talking to people about SHH. My grades suck, but I’m okay with that … there are more important things in life.