From Gratitude to Greater Than… A journey to build a compassionate world

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By Wendy Chan

February 2018

I was born in China to a family that faced generations of political turmoil and persecution.  My great-grandfather passed away as a political prisoner at 78 years old, and my grandfather was a refugee who fled to Hong Kong during the Chinese civil war.  My talented parents, despite having only 6th grade education because of the Cultural Revolution and knew that life would be difficult in the US, were determined to come to America because they wanted a brighter future for their children.  At the age of 12, I followed my parents as they immigrated to California.

As I reflect back on my life - from that little girl in China who lived in a wooden house with only running water and electricity to now an executive at a global consulting firm -  I hold a deep sense of gratitude.  I know that I am where I am today not because I am smarter or work harder than others; It is, for the most part, because I have won life’s lottery. 

But haven’t we all won life’s lottery? Compared to Syrian professionals who are living in refugee camps because of the war with no prospect to rebuild their lives, haven’t we won life’s lottery?  Compared to the Rohingya mother who saw her child brutally murdered before her eyes simply because she’s a Rohingya, haven’t we won life’s lottery?  Today, the world refugee crisis has reached historic scale with 65 million people forced from home simply because they were born in the wrong time and wrong place in history.  I see that it is my obligation, as someone who has been so graciously blessed by life, to ease fear and build compassion by reminding the world that refugees are like us – they are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and they simply want a safer and better life for their family and children. 

My gratitude has motivated me to co-found NOVA Friends of Refugees, a 600-member grassroots coalition devoted to welcome refugees and tell their stories of resilience and hope.  As part of this grassroots movement, I am organizing a large-scale, outdoors festival called The One Journey Festival, on June 2, 2018 to celebrate the talents and contributions of refugees.  I am so proud to be joined by over a hundred like-minded volunteers (and growing!) in this effort.  The festival will connect participants through food, fashion, art and music and leverage technology, including Shared Studios' immersive video experience, to connect attendees with refugees living in camps to build understanding and empathy.  Celebrities such as Chef Jose Andres and model Ger Duany have already signed on.  We expect thousands to attend this festival. 

If you feel moved to make a difference in the refugee crisis, you can join the One Journey movement by volunteering or with a donation.  Every effort you make, no matter how small, is your way of telling the world that while we may walk on different paths, all of us are connected and traveling in one journey of humanity.