In a time where youth voices are increasingly leading the charge for change, Derek Chen stands out as a remarkable example. A 16-year-old high school student with a passion for healthcare and community service, Derek has founded Statice Public Health Society, an organization dedicated to enhancing health awareness among youth worldwide. His journey from founding a small online platform to influencing millions encapsulates the power of vision, dedication and hard work.
Launched in May 2022, Statice began online and then rapidly evolved into a global movement with physical chapters in schools and colleges across different countries. Derek’s commitment to Statice and its mission is evident in the impressive 1,000 hours he has volunteered, coordinating leadership teams and overseeing operations.
Statice’s digital platforms, offering health awareness guides and blog articles, have made a significant impact, reaching more than 20 million unique Instagram users. Additionally, Derek’s involvement with the United Nations International Youth Conference, where he plays a key role in organizing a youth leadership conference and managing social media, has exponentially increased the event’s reach. Further, his dedication as a junior volunteer firefighter and his pursuit of EMT certification underscore his commitment to serving his community in multiple capacities.
Read more about what inspires Derek to volunteer with the causes he’s passionate about and some lessons he’s learned along the way so far.
Tell us about your volunteer role.
I’ve served as CEO of Statice Health International for nearly two years now, and on a day-to-day basis my responsibilities include coordinating my team of officers and ensuring that all of our operations are running smoothly – mainly content creation for our awareness campaigns, as well as social media and blog articles for our website. I’m also responsible for managing volunteers and ensuring that everyone knows what to do and is taking full advantage of the opportunities we provide.
Coinciding with this, I also oversee branches of Statice Health worldwide, and our leadership programs, where I teach like-minded students as myself how to start branches in their own local communities. Last but not least, I’m also responsible for a lot of our ideation work – essentially coming up with new ideas and organizing events to further our mission of advancing health literacy and global health equity worldwide.
Why is this issue so important to you?
Growing up, I always aspired to become a physician. Since middle school, I was always very passionate about all of the science classes I’ve taken, especially biology and health. Obviously, since I’m only 16 years old right now, it’s going to be a long time until I’m a full-fledged doctor, so working with Statice now is a way of creating positive change at my age. Taking issues and concepts I learn inside of the classroom and implementing them into the real world to help solve these global issues.
What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?
As of today, we have 2,000 volunteers from across 65 different countries and 150 different cities, and we have 60 branches located in schools worldwide. Our main long-term goal is to continue expanding, but we really want to have a larger focus on addressing health issues in underserved populations. By the end of 2024, I’m hoping to increase the number of branches we have to 150 and the number of volunteers to 5,000. Our volunteers and branches are really the highlight of our organization and how we’re able to reach so many people worldwide. The larger our community, the greater amount of impact we can have in achieving our mission – global health equity.
Recently, we took on a fundraising campaign with a nonprofit called Gift Of Life International, which is providing life-saving open-heart surgeries to children born with heart defects in underserved areas. Our fundraising goal for 2024 is to raise $10,000 for this organization.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
There have definitely been a lot of rewarding aspects with running Statice, but number one has to be the people. A few years ago, I never would have expected to be connecting with so many unique people from all over the world. We started with members from my high school and evolved to the point that now, more than 80% of our volunteers are from countries outside of the United States. It’s been very interesting and insightful to hear perspectives from people from all different educational and cultural backgrounds. Helping them addressing their own local community’s health issues, no matter what those might be, is rewarding.
Secondly, the opportunity that I get to share stories and inspire other youth to join the movement for global change is definitely one of the most rewarding aspects. My work has really allowed me access to networks of youth and other changemakers from all across the globe, including the International Youth Conference and the United Nations.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak as a Youth Regional Ambassador on a panel discussing youth engagement and addressing the Sustainable Development Goals. Overall, it’s awesome to know that I have a voice and a part in solving global issues.
Any lessons you’ve learned from running a nonprofit?
I’ve learned a lot about leadership. I’ve always been a very introverted person, but having the opportunity to interact with so many people on a daily basis has helped me step outside of my comfort zone. I’ve developed myself as a leader – especially in skills like communication and organization. With Statice especially, it’s interesting to see so many people from across the world who are also passionate about health and creating change. There are so many other people who care about these issues.
Why is it important for people, especially youth, to get involved with the causes they care about?
I think getting started with volunteerism at an early age is a very valuable experience. People are able to gain exposure to the fields that perhaps they plan to pursue a career in, while also having the opportunity to help so many other people. I think that a lot of people are under the misconception that other people are going to do the work for them – solving issues like climate change or health equity. Really, it has to be youth. Youth are the new generation who will solve these issues. There’s a chance that everyone’s thinking that, and therefore no one does it. It’s really important to take initiative – especially those in my generation.
Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?
I think the main point that I’d like people to take away is to step outside of your comfort zone. A lot of people are afraid to take initiative because they think they’re not cut out to be a leader or not capable of taking on volunteer responsibilities. But anyone can get involved with volunteering, as long as they’re dedicated and committed to creating change.
Another thing to remember is that if, for instance, your community doesn’t have established volunteer opportunities for youth, it’s never not an option to start your own organization to address the issues – like I did with Statice.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Derek? Find local volunteer opportunities.