Bryan Yan’s childhood best friend lost his mother to the opioid epidemic while the two were still young. According to Bryan, after his mother’s death, his best friend was bounced from group home to group home for children without parents. When the Cincinnati, Ohio 18-year-old discovered that his home state had the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S., he decided to take action for the most vulnerable left behind in the wake of adult opioid deaths: children of addicted individuals.
Founding Behind Every Great Kid (BEGK) in 2015, Bryan dedicates his service to supporting children like his best friend through education, mentorship and raising awareness about opioid addiction. Realizing that many underprivileged children affected by the opioid epidemic must be in great need for academic support, Bryan connects children with caring teen and adult mentors and tutors to empower these so-called forgotten children. Offering resources and educating the public about the impact of adult addiction on children, Bryan and BEGK volunteers have connected with about 1,000 vulnerable children in Ohio thus far.
What inspires you to volunteer?
This volunteerism with (BEGK) has been different because it’s humbling seeing how kids that are being brought up in group homes without their biological parents and who have no materialistic belongings are still so happy in life. If they receive something small from us that other children would take for granted, for example a school supply like a calculator, they’re always so happy about it.
Explain how Behind Every Great Kid (BEGK) works.
We offer children individualized support three times a week including academic support like help with homework or bettering their math and science skills. We also connect them with social offerings including mental health resources, college advice and job opportunities. We provide this academic assistance and mentoring at various locations including libraries, group homes and food banks.
Describe your role with BEGK.
As founder of BEGK, I help kids living with non-biological adults, either at group or foster homes. I also write grants to support our organization financially, I develop curriculum for the programs we offer these kids, and I volunteer one-on-one with some of our program participants. Our approximately 50 volunteers are mostly local high school and college students, so we are able to connect with these kids in a unique way as we have many similarities.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
I volunteered with one kid named Joshua who was involved in gangs and got expelled for bringing a gun into school. The group home directors were trying to find a new school for him, but in the meantime, my mom, who is a school teacher, helped me to design a program so that he didn’t fall behind in school. Joshua stopped the gang activity and focused on school, and he’s currently applying to colleges.
What’s one way you hope to inspire others in your service?
I want to inspire others to not forget the groups or individuals that are left behind. With the opioid epidemic, you talk about the addicted and the deaths, but no one talks about the effects. No one talks about the children that have been left behind. By not forgetting about these children, we are changing their lives.
Why is your volunteerism with these vulnerable children so important?
In addition to raising awareness of parental drug addiction, BEGK focuses on prevention as this is such a vulnerable population. By educating these underprivileged children, we are working to prevent the next generation of drug addicts.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
With all the bad stuff going on in the world, it’s amazing to see people come together for one joint cause.
How can readers help?
Please visit our website for more information about how you can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Bryan Yan? Find local volunteer opportunities.