25 years of Shanghai Sunrise – Our former Executive Directors


Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. With the exception of two full time staff, Shanghai Sunrise is an entirely volunteer-led charity. We rely on volunteers who are professionals and want to do something purposeful by contributing their time and expertise. A small but strong team of 5-10 core volunteers leads key functions, such as Sponsor Relations, Fundraising & Events, Marketing & Communications, as well as Student Programs. In addition, we have a cadre of around 50 volunteers who help when we put out a request for support.


One particularly important volunteer role is that of Executive Director (ED). Yes, for the past 25 years, Shanghai Sunrise’s EDs have all been volunteers! Since our inception, 14 wonderful, capable women have dedicated a substantial amount of their time, energy and talent to our organization. Thank you, Bonnie Guerra, Helen Freiermuth, Lori Burke, Debbie Yang, Louise Ridgwick, Marina Cheng, Yvonne Kimman, Frances O’Rourke, Dina Watkins, Holli Mallak, Wendy Landy, Amber Aldred, Lillian Zhao, and YuliaYan!

Let’s hear from some of these remarkable women and find out how they helped shape our organization.


Let’s hear from some of these remarkable women and find out how they helped shape our organization.


 

Yvonne Kimman



When did you serve as ED?

After volunteering as Sponsor Relations Director, I served as Executive Director from March 2011 until June 2012.

What milestone or noteworthy initiatives did Shanghai Sunrise accomplish at the time?

  • We explored a pilot project for migrant children in Jinshan district.

  • Kenny Wang’s Brothers of Shanghai Sunrise (B.O.S.S.) group joined us as a new sponsor for university students for which we held a separate Pairing Ceremony in August 2011.

  • We started giving our students Shanghai Sunrise caps.

  • We considered stopping sponsorship for Shanghai students because we were not really supporting the poorest ones, but the ones who were just above that line. In a special meeting with small and big sponsors (companies), we discussed the future of Shanghai Sunrise and at the end we decided to continue.


Which personal contribution are you most proud of?


I came into the ED position in March 2011 in a time when it was hard to find volunteers for a lot of positions. Being Sponsor Relations Director I took up the ED position as well just because I found it important to continue the good work of the organization. To keep it going feels for me as the most important thing that I did.



Frances O’Rourke




When did you serve as Executive Director?

From June 2012 to May 2013



What milestone or noteworthy initiatives did Shanghai Sunrise accomplish at the time?

When I started as ED, Shanghai Sunrise had already accomplished more than 15 years of service to the local community. This in itself was already a great achievement.



Which personal contribution are you most proud of?

  • Sponsoring my own students,

  • Helping the B.O.S.S. group of sponsors grow from eight students in 2010 to 20 students in 2013 (and 42 now in 2021) by ensuring our relationship was professionally managed with our volunteers and admin staff's full support.


Holli Mallak




When did you serve as ED?

January 2015 – June 2016



What milestone or noteworthy initiatives did Shanghai Sunrise accomplish at the time?

During my time with Shanghai Sunrise, the team organized a Sponsor Thank You event at Art Labor. We wanted to thank our student sponsors for their generous support while allowing them an opportunity to get to know Shanghai Sunrise a little better.



Which personal contribution are you most proud of?

My biggest contribution as ED was supporting the Board of Directors in their transition from a governing to working board. This kept the board with its long-term members more connected to the day-to-day work and volunteers as well as providing institutional continuity.


Lillian Zhao



When did you serve as ED?

In October 2010 I began volunteering with Shanghai Sunrise and participated in many different activities. I served as Executive Director from October 2018 – May 2020.



What milestone or noteworthy initiatives did Shanghai Sunrise accomplish at the time?

  • We targeted to grow our social media reach and indeed increased our WeChat official account followers from around 100 to more than 1,000.

  • We encouraged around 40 Shanghai Sunrise graduate alumni to stay involved with our organization and to join together as a group to sponsor two new high school students.

  • We reinvigorated the event sponsorship with our long-term partner, The Kunlun Jing’An Hotel (previously the Hilton Shanghai).


Which personal contribution are you most proud of?

With my bi-lingual skills and position within the community, I believe I was able to expand our connection with the local people, sharing student stories and SHSR’s vision, while maintaining our visibility in the expatriate society. This brought in more Chinese sponsors, volunteers and graduated students growing the SHSR family.


Yulia Yan




When did you serve as Executive Director?

From May 2020 to June 2021



What milestone or noteworthy initiatives did Shanghai Sunrise accomplish at the time?

  • The most significant initiative we had during my time was the project “Regenerate.” We analyzed the latest education-related costs for high school and university students; the non-financial needs of students in need; and updated the SHSR value proposition.

  • We launched a student program, “online English corner.” During the summer of 2021, some of our sponsors and students met online and talked in English once a week. The purpose was to facilitate an opportunity for SHSR students to connect with each other and practice their English in a friendly environment.

  • There were many internal improvements that are less visible, but, in the long run, they will help the SHSR team to enhance SHSR work.



Which personal contribution are you most proud of?

In Shanghai Sunrise, we work as a team, and I was lucky to be a part of it. Besides that, the SHSR team dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to update its knowledge about the latest situation of high school education in Shanghai; we learned more about the additional needs of our students, which are not always financial. I know that the team will develop more activities focused on supporting the social needs of the underprivileged students in Shanghai.


We invite you to make a difference in your local community too. Join our team of passionate individuals and help shape the future of Shanghai’s disadvantaged youth.

Our Executive Director position is open as well as other roles. While the Director position requires about 20 hours per week, other volunteer opportunities only require a few hours per week. We ask that volunteers commit for at least 3-6 months.

If you are inspired and want to learn more about volunteer opportunities, please contact volunteer@shanghaisunrise.com.

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