Behind the vision: if there’s a will, there’s a way

Arthur Wang on finding the courage to step up and make change during the pandemic.

Ashoka
Changemakers

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Two young people and six adults standing in a school entrance. The young people are distributing mask kits to the four teachers who are smiling and displaying their colorful kits.
Arthur (left) and teammate donating kits to educators. Courtesy of Arthur and Clarksville Care Group.

By Arthur Wang

When I first heard about the closures happening around the world because of COVID-19, I rejoiced. Like many others, I celebrated, thinking, “no school!” I could never have imagined the years of recovery and mammoth changes that it would bring.

I first learned about the rapidly spreading pandemic from my uncle. He was a neurologist in China and had volunteered to travel to Wuhan, the source of the virus, to help treat patients there. Putting his neurology profession on hold, he switched to basic nursing care to help take care of COVID patients at the very start of the pandemic, when personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply and there were no known treatments for the virus. My family would call him at night to ask how he was doing, and he would put on a silly face, telling us about how he had to wear diapers because there was no time to go to the bathroom to cheer us up. However, I worried for him. He was putting his life on the line to fight an unknown and deadly virus because that’s what he thought was the right thing to do.

That was when I realized that I also had to do something. I had a responsibility to step up and do my part in the community. Though I had been doing community service since the fifth grade, I think my uncle was the spark that set my ambition aflame. His actions and bravery inspired me to step up and do whatever I could. He taught me that bravery isn’t about doing dangerous things; bravery is continuing to do something through fear because you know it’s right. Even though he was scared of contracting the disease, he still stepped up and helped because he believed in it.

Two young people stand next to each other with masks on, holding boxes filled with kits.
Courtesy of Arthur and Clarksville Care Group.

At first, it was just my sister and I creating DIY face shields that were durable and reusable to help with the PPE scarcity. After realizing that this work really had an impact, we recruited more and more members to help make these face shields. Friends, friends of friends, classmates, and others all joined because they wanted to be part of the effort. Soon enough, we had a family of volunteers that wanted to make positive change for the community at this difficult time. As the pandemic died down with the spread of the vaccines, our connection was still there; we were united as a group to keep making a difference. We expanded and created new projects, like blanket drives and teacher appreciation kits.

My main takeaway from these two years: focus on what you can do, and don’t stress about what you can’t. It all really comes from having the will to make change, because there is always something to do. Even though I couldn’t help on the frontlines and treat COVID patients myself, I still could help our frontline workers stay safe and protected. There are no limits to the things you can accomplish once you really convince yourself to act on something. I never could have imagined the scope of impact that our organization has had on our community today, and it was all thanks to a single spark of motivation that fueled and blossomed into so much more.

The Clarksville Youth Care Group stands on a short stage, displaying their products.
Courtesy of Arthur and Clarksville Care Group.

People ask me if I am proud of the work that we have done. I never really knew how to answer them, but looking back, I know my answer now. Yes, I am proud, but I am so much more than that. I feel so honored that we have been able to accomplish so much as a group united by a common goal. And I’m happy that I can make a difference in the lives of others, whether it is doctors, patients, or teachers because I know that I have the power to make change. Being a changemaker is not just something you can put on a resume. It is a lifestyle built on passion, dedication, and seeking joy through helping others. And now I ask you: How will you use your power to make change?

Sample masks in the kit. Includes masks decorated with math and science equations, library books, a globe, and other school-inspired designs.
Sample masks in the Teacher Care Kits. Courtesy of Arthur and Clarksville Care Group.

Arthur, 17, from Columbia, Maryland, is the co-founder of Clarksville Youth Care Group and “Teacher Care Kits Initiative,” a project that delivers free, handmade mask kits to teachers and staff. Since 2021, they delivered 1700+ COVID teacher care kits featuring handmade, school-themed face masks and accessories to 64 schools and delivered more than 850 back-to-school teacher and bus driver appreciation kits featuring handmade pencil pouches and school supplies to 46 schools. Arthur is a 2022 Prudential Emerging Visionary. You can learn more about Arthur and his project here.

The Behind the Vision Blog Series is an opportunity for 2022 Prudential Emerging Visionaries to tell their stories, offer their insights into making change, and reflect on their impact journeys in their own words. To learn more about the Prudential Emerging Visionaries program, go here.

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Ashoka
Changemakers

We bring together social entrepreneurs, educators, businesses, parents & youth to support a world in which everyone is equipped & empowered to be a changemaker.