An interview with Huangzhao, the head of Zhaoyang Youth Space in Wuhan
Huangzhao is a twenty-two years old man who established the Zhaoyang youth space in Wuhan. He is a young creative, he loves to play guitar, and he just graduated from Hubei University as a media major. Despite his youth, Huang has mature thoughts, big plans, and a well defined idea of life.
What are the main businesses that the Zhaoyang youth space is involved in?
At present, we have seven main businesses.
Free reading: This is our book collection space. Our goal is to collect fifty thousand books. Until then, we aim to provide a good selection of books to people who need them and also create a suitable environment for the “National Reading Program.”
Coffee and Baking: We collect the world’s best coffee beans to brew the best coffee. We also offer fresh baking as well as other simple foods.
Living Accessories: We customize Jingdezhen Ceramic living utensils and sell utensils that can be used in daily life.
Makerspace: This is an open project partner program and entrepreneurship training base for university students. It is also a presentation platform for young entrepreneurs.
Culture Sharing: We try to share culture through lectures and communication between domestic and foreign students. We also hold nationwide reading events and offer a free activity space for university clubs. The space can be used for activities such as music, painting, drama, photography, sculpture, and calligraphy.
Social Public Welfare: We support youth public welfare events and offer free psychological consultations.
Youth Hostel: Our youth hostel provides a short term place for readers, welfare workers, creatives, and travelers to stay.
Why did you decide to establish the Zhaoyang youth space?
When I was in my second year of college, I fell in love with traveling.
During this time I went to a lot of different cities and when I was twenty, I started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for my project. Going to Lhasa was my twentieth birthday wish and within two days, thirty-eight netizens supported me for three thousand yuan and made my wish come true.
Through crowdfunding, I was able to find a number of different youth organizations. For example, the crowdfunding platform Dreammore Beijing gave me the opportunity to get to know the Beijing 706 Youth Space.
When I got back to Wuhan, there was another similar platform. One of my teachers wanted to create a similar youth space so we joined together and combined our ideas.
The first youth space in China was called 706. When I first established the Zhaoyang youth space in Wuhan, I visited youth spaces in various cities like Beijing and Chongqing to learn what makes them work. After this, and with help from the Wuhan locals, the Zhaoyang youth space was created.
Since you have opened the space, are there any people or events that have left a deep impression on you?
There are a lot. The people who visit our space are always interesting. One person in particular that stands out was a Brazilian student who came to stay at our space. Back home in Brazil, he was a circus artist and he came to Wuhan to study.
He found our space on the internet and ended up staying with us for a month. After that he still came to visit us every week. He believed that our space opened a new door for him as he was able to find out more about Wuhan, meet many new interesting people, and join in with some of the fun events that we held.
When he had interviews later on, he actually still mentioned our space. He said that we are a space where people who love art, movies, music, and literature can gather together and have fun.
We established our youth space in October 2015. Within one and a half years, we were able to hold more than eighty events, invite many teachers from universities throughout Wuhan to share stories and give speeches, and cooperate with many public welfare organizations.
When students from other regions find out about our events they often drive for one or two hours just to take part.
The most impressive event for me was the volunteer event that we held in July and August last year during the huge flood in Wuhan. Through our space, we were able to organize a volunteer group to help out with the flood relief effort.
One thing we did was contact every youth hostel in Wuhan and asked them to provide beds for the people in the disaster area. As well as this, on the second day, the volunteer group went to the disaster area to help with carrying the supplies and counseling for the people affected. At this event, I gave a speech as a representative of the youth volunteers.
What goals do you have for this youth space?
To be honest, at first, we started our space with the mindset of an educator. We did this because we felt that under the Chinese education system, university students could not have access to knowledge outside their major.
In this situation, students are left with only one option in their life and they don’t know what they really love. We wanted to give the youth a chance to discover more possibilities in life.
At first, our slogan was “help the youth grow better”. However, we soon realized that “helping” is standing at a higher angle and talking about the problem. What we really want is be there with the students so they can grow.
Our space is also a place where people can experiment with their interests, a place where people can get new experiences and enrich their extracurricular life. Through this kind of space and platform, we hope to inspire their creativity and give them an interest in hot social issues.
How has the real life operation of running the space compared to the goals and aims you had when you first established the youth space? Has you achieve your intended purpose?
We faced lots of difficulties during the establishment of our business. On the one hand, there is economic pressure, because our business is not very profitable. On the other hand, I had my own pressure from my family.
In a secular Chinese society, you are expected to go through a series of procedures in life. You are expected to get a nice job, earn money to support a family, buy a house, and get married. Because of this, it took me a long time to persuade my parents to support me in setting up the youth space.
There were also a lot of misunderstandings when we first started out. Because our office is in a residential building, some events we hold affect the other residents. At first they complained, however, after speaking with them we were able to solve these problems.
Achieving something is a long-term process. Right now, we haven’t completely achieved our goals, however, we are going to keep on trying. We believe that by doing this we can achieve our goals some day.
Wuhan has more university students than anywhere in the world. In fact, almost a million college students come here each year. Because of this, I hope that when students get into the universities here they will come to know Zhaoyang youth space. We hope to give them some life experiences that they would otherwise miss out on.
Finally, do you have anything to add on or express?
The last thing I want to say is that China’s education system is not going to change immediately, it needs time and people to change it. Because of this, I hope that more young people will join us and work together for the cause.
Thank you very much for your interview.
I am very thankful for having this platform to express my idea, thank you.