Young Americans Help China Through Non-Profits

China's Inner Mongolia province hasn't seen a good harvest in years. But local farmer Ha Si Gao Wa is surviving -- after switching from crops to livestock, reports CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton.

"I can afford my daughters' tuition fees now", Ha Si Gao Wa says through a translator.

Ha Si Gao Wa's changed her business by borrowing $750 through Wokai -- a microfinance charity run by 26-year-old American Casey Wilson.

Wokai matches online donors with aspiring entrepreneurs -- from a tailor sewing traditional clothing in northern Inner Mongolia, to dumpling makers in Sichuan, southern China.

Photos: The Library Project

Then they repay the capital and you get to support someone new," said Wilson.

While studying Chinese in Beijing, Casey was inspired by a friend, a restaurant worker who was trapped in poverty, earning just $100 a month.

"The only difference between her and I was that I was born in Oakland, California and she was born in, you know, rural China," said Wilson.

Casey's inability to help her friend led her and co-founder Courtney McColgan to launch Wokai when they were just 23. They've funded 500 micro-loans in China so far -- and that's just the beginning.

While China's economy is booming, there's still plenty of need in a country where 470 million are surviving on less than $2 a day. So Casey Wilson and other young Americans operating their own non-profits in China have a huge need to fill.

Arizona native Tom Stader started his non-profit, the Library Project, with just $500 in donations soon after moving to China in 2006.

"We almost went broke four times in the first two years. That was an issue, but it was something which our donors rose to the challenge," said Tom. "They saved us."

Using old and new books, Tom's team has built 320 libraries in rural classrooms like one in central China's Shanxi province and in underfunded schools on the fringes of Beijing.

"We can see the outside world via books," explains a boy who has benefitted from the Library Project.

An entire library costing just $1,500 can be a life-changer. Some children here have never read a book with color pictures before.

"Sometimes I don't even feel hungry as long as I am reading," said one girl, an encouragement for Tom.

"I think we're at 75,000 children right now that have access to books," said Tom

While many come to China to take advantage of its growing wealth, young Americans like Tom and Casey are aware that not everyone's getting rich. They're eager to help those people to bloom as well.
  • Celia Hatton

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