When Xin Xiang and her friends started CLOVER in 2009, they were only recent high school graduates. “In the past 6 years, CLOVER has grown from a student volunteer group into a registered nonprofit organization with a small core full-time staff and dozens of core volunteers.” Xin Xiang says, describing her experience as head of CLOVER, a Guangzhou-based non-profit dedicated to providing summer and year-long enrichment programs to children of migrant workers.
Xiang first had the idea of reaching out to migrant children in China’s cities after following media coverage of the issue. However, when she organized the first CLOVER summer camp for migrant children, she tells us that she didn’t have a long-term vision for the organization. “We didn’t have a plan for it to grow into anything; we didn’t even know that what we were doing was ‘education’, ‘public service’, or ‘nonprofit’.” Nonetheless, the first summer camp was a successful and an emotionally moving experience, so the organizers promised to return the next summer—and they did.
Soon enough they were working closely with local communities and looking to transform CLOVER into a more sophisticated organization aiming to cultivate children, each of whom “loves, thinks and changes through peer-led experiential learning.” For Xiang and many of her colleagues, “there is always a feeling of being pushed to operate at the edge of our own capacities. It is challenging and sometimes stressful, but it makes us grow, as individuals and as an organization.” Indeed, while Xiang was studying at Harvard College, she felt like “living in two parallel universes at the same time.” Her routine would often consist of a Skype conference at breakfast, a day of classes, and then a series of more conferences in the evening. To re-examine her priorities, Xiang would then take a gap year to legally register CLOVER and improve its operations.
Today, Xiang is pursuing a Ph.D. in education at Harvard University, following her graduation earlier this year with a B.A. in psychology. “I’m coming to see more and more exciting ways in which my practical experience grounds my research and my research informs my action,” Xiang tells us. As for CLOVER’s future, Xiang is quite excited for the next series of opportunities and challenges. Reiterating her mission to empower youth, she’s hopeful that CLOVER will continue to serve underprivileged communities for years to come.