Internet entrepreneurs aren't just bankrolling startup companies online. Renton resident Ava Van, a young multimedia journalist and photographer, are crowdsourcing funds to help fund philanthropic missions, too.
Calling it "the next chapter in my life", Van will dedicate two months volunteering full-time at an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she will document the entire trip on her blog, 57 Days in Ho Chi Minh, starting on March 1 to April 26.
"I hope to gain life experience from this," she said. "I have never done anything like this before."
The prospect of tapping into her ethnic roots in Vietnam, and to make a difference by "giving back to the kids" at the same time proved too good an opportunity to pass up.
Van, 22, already runs her own successful photography business Ava Van Photography. Her resume already tallies work with a number of local and national public figures, including KINGTV News Anchor Lori Matsukawa, best-selling Author Shane Claiborne, Miss Washington USA 2012 Cassandra Searles and TV host Jenni Hogan.
But she couldn't have gone there on her own modest income, so she raised roughly $3,000 through crowdsourcing — a method of microfundraising over the internet, soliciting donations of small amounts to reach an eventual, modest goal to complete a project.
She launched her own fundraising page and reached her goal this year on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.
Her assignments at the orphanage include:
- Helping take care of 600 children, 200 of whom are disabled;
- Feed, bathe and care for the children;
- Assist staff in providing rehabilitation exercises and therapist treatments for the children;
- Teach the children English; and
- Play, entertain, and educate the children through games, music, art, and other exercises.
A Lindbergh High graduate who grew up near Tiffany Park, Van was herself adopted by a local family when she was three-years-old, and grew up in a home that sometimes relied on food stamps to help when times were tough. She excelled in school and graduated from Seattle Pacific University last fall, and said she plans to work for a TV station and eventually, one day, become the next Oprah Winfrey.
Her goal, she said, was to use her journalistic perspective to blog every dayreturn with stories about life in a third-world countries.
"I hope to, through my work, open the eyes of other people," she said.