Youth Inspire leaders Jason Cui and Ezzy Sriram in the rural outskirts of Beijing implementing tablet computers in a primary school curriculum.
Picture this: An impoverished young teenager sits in a hospital bed in rural India, suffering from a life-threatening cancer, opens up a tablet device filled with educational tools and apps to distract them from their daily struggles. You would probably expect the tablet to have been shipped there by a large, national non-profit run by paid staff members. Not so. It was delivered to this teen by other teens, all working toward the same goal: to connect with pediatric cancer patients around the world in order to provide them with encouragement, support and education.
Jason Cui, a senior at Langley High School and resident of Great Falls, came up with the idea for Youth Inspire in 2010 and had staff members involved and programs running by 2011. “As you imagine, every patient that’s being treated, whether for cancer or any other disease, they spend the majority of their time in a hospital. And for that reason the main people they interact with are doctors, nurses, not really people their own age,” said Cui. “So we saw that as a problem and our program is a solution for that.”
CUI AND HIS 11-MEMBER TEAM have made it their mission to reach out to pediatric hospital bound patients globally, by starting right here in the Northern Virginia area. They started with a program called “Youth Inspire” at Inova Children’s Hospital in Falls Church, volunteering their time by playing and spending time with the patients. “It was just really cool to see these kids who are obviously going through a trying time in their life, just be able to make them smile by coloring a Disney princess with them,” said Courtney Cuppernull, director of PR/Community Affairs for Youth Inspire and a senior at Langley High School from Great Falls.
Jamie Gentille, director of Child Life Services at Inova Children’s Hospital, is continually impressed by the teens. “To see this type of altruism in today's youth is really inspiring,” said Gentille, “Jason and his team have had such a positive impact on the children here.”
The team has raised funds through an innovative photo fundraising program called “Teens Helping Teens” which contributed to the spread of awareness for Youth Inspire all around the world. From this program launched “Inspire Connect,” which has provided hospital bound children in rural India and China with $2,000 worth of tablet devices to use as distraction from their daily struggles. “We wanted the ability to impact hospitals around the world because we can’t organize hospital exchanges between high schools and hospitals out there,” said Ezzy Sriram, co-founder and chief operating officer of Youth Inspire and senior at Langley High school from McLean.
RECENTLY, Youth Inspire launched a new program, Independent Projects. The purpose of the program is to fund projects proposed by teens that will positively affect youth. “I did an independent project in Africa where Youth Inspire helped support. I went and worked with small children in Africa in a very impoverished school area,” said Cuppernull. Other programs that have been approved include an improved recycling program at Langley High School, a backpack and school supply drive for Washington D.C. school children and a used prom dress project.
All of this has been done by a group of teens, not yet graduated from high school. Cui and Sriram achieved approval for Youth Inspire to be an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. None of the fully teen-staffed team is paid, so all $10,000 that the organization has raised so far has gone directly to programs. The staff hopes to see the organization continue to spread to other high schools and hopefully continue their efforts into college. Keep updated at http://globalyouthinspire.com.