​​​​​​​​​​Promoting Leadership in Aspiring Youth​

Interview with it takes a village and wu yee children's services

Interviewees: Shelly Wong and Virginia Cheung

Interviewer: Elisa Zhang

        PLAY Leadership first collaborated with It Takes A Village (ITAV) and Wu Yee Children’s Services, non-profit organizations dedicated to serving the community, in 2021. PLAY contributed to their mask drives throughout the pandemic by refurbishing tens of thousands of N95s and children’s fabric masks. In December of 2023, PLAY partnered once again with ITAV and Wu Yee to participate in the holiday toy drive. Curious to learn more about their organizations and the donation drives PLAY had taken part in, PLAY Times contacted Shelly Wong, the founder of ITAV, and Virginia Cheung, Wu Yee’s director of advancement. They were eager to share the following:

        Wu Yee Children’s Services, whose name means “to protect and care for children” in Chinese, was founded by San Francisco’s social workers in 1977 with a mission to provide childcare support for Chinese immigrants. Over time, it developed into a large organization which now provides full-time, year-round free childcare for families in San Francisco. Wu Yee works closely with the city and multiple other organizations to achieve their goals.

        It Takes A Village was founded by Shelly in 2021; realizing the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) such as face shields and masks due to COVID, volunteers came together to help the medically underserved by donating PPE to hospitals and community centers. PLAY joined ITAV’s N95 mask drive and helped refurbish over 63,000 N95s. It didn’t end there, though. Wu Yee was seeking fabric masks for young children who were unable to use N95s; in response to Wu Yee’s call for help, PLAY joined ITAV to sew thousands of masks. Throughout the process, participants realized just how important quality childcare is to the wellbeing of society, which is why ITAV and PLAY continue to participate in Wu Yee’s events.

        Last December, PLAY members were asked to donate age-appropriate toys for babies and toddlers for Wu Yee’s annual holiday toy drive. It may seem strange at first that Wu Yee decided to collect toys, and not necessities like food or clothing. However, both Virginia and Shelly emphasized the fundamental role toys play in childrens’ development. According to Virginia, toys are a play-based learning tool which “allow young children to learn motor skills and develop both physically and intellectually.” Since a child’s brain is developing rapidly between the ages of 0-5, it’s “critical to engage children [with toys] and set a good foundation for their future education.”

        It’s also important to note that these toys went to children living in underprivileged families. In fact, 15% of the families are unhoused and many more squeeze into single-residence occupancies (housing units meant to be occupied by one person). As Shelly put it, “if they can’t pay for food [and other basic necessities], why would they pay for toys?” In such an environment, just a few toys will be enough to bring some holiday joy to the parents and children in need.

        To learn more about the importance of the toy drive, Shelly’s “For the Littles” blog post provides some interesting information and surprising statistics surrounding childcare.

        This year, Wu Yee donated over 1,500 toys in total, and Wu Yee hopes to collect even more toys in the future so every child can receive multiple toys. PLAY Leadership plans to participate in the 2024 holiday drive, so to all PLAY members, remember that your generous donations will help lift the spirits of hundreds of families during the holiday season!

        Shelly and Virginia have confirmed that they will continue to help the children in the San Francisco community through donation drives and other events, so PLAY will have more opportunities in the future to volunteer with ITAV and Wu Yee again. Though future events are not set in stone yet, possibilities include: touring Wu Yee’s different childcare centers with ITAV in San Francisco; a backpack drive; a newborn drive; and, of course, the annual end-of-year holiday toy drive.