Have you ever taken a selfie? Probably.
Have you ever taken a selfie with Jimmy Kimmel and the entire Clinton family? Probably not… unless you’re Zuan-Fu Lim.
Lim, a biomedical engineering junior at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) this March in Phoenix, Arizona. The Clinton Global Initiative brings global leaders together to collaborate on international issues, and CGIU engages college students in the same environment every year at a summit held on a college campus. For a lucky few participants like Lim, it also provides the opportunity to jump in on one of the most star-studded selfies in recent history.
Each year, University of Houston sends students to CGIU and Lim was selected this year for his innovative commitment to action, which is a requirement of every CGIU participant. Lim’s commitment is called “Care 4 Homeless Houston.”
“Some of my friends from Malaysia who are studying in the U.S. now came to visit me in Houston, and when we went downtown, they saw a lot of homeless people. I guess the places they’re from are more like student cities with not as many homeless people,” Lim said. “When they were here, they kept saying, ‘Why are there so many homeless people on the street asking for change?’ It struck me – I’ve been so complacent with whatever I see here, I wasn’t sensitive to any of it. My friends opened my eyes to see that this is a real problem that needs to be addressed.”
Lim’s solution starts with Care 4 Homeless Houston. The initiative targets the homeless community directly around the University of Houston campus. “The problem I see, that this commitment is trying to address, is that there is no accurate database of the health status of the homeless population around our campus. Even surveys that have been done mention that these results are – at best – an estimate, because if a homeless man doesn’t know you very well, he’s not going to tell you he has cancer. So one of the aims of this commitment is to engage students on campus to reach out to the homeless population and build a rapport with him, to get them to be in a place where they’re comfortable sharing their health condition so we can poll that data and put it in a database for future references.”
Armed with his inspiration and his initiative, Lim set off for Phoenix on March 20. At CGIU, he said he was able to network with hundreds of students from over 80 countries and learn about their initiatives as well as the full scope of his own.
“It was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect… it broadened my horizons. It opened up my eyes to see that homelessness covers so much,” Lim said, recalling one attendee whose commitment dealt with homeless students.
The conference itself lasted three days, but Care 4 Homeless Houston is in the works to be a mainstay at UH for years to come.
“At this point, the commitment is in the early stages, which focuses on getting to know the homeless population better. In the future, I plan to incorporate somewhat of a stay-healthy plan for the homeless, regardless of the condition they’re in. I’m planning to engage students who have majors in healthcare and the life sciences and draft a training plan for them to create a health plan for the homeless population so they can live a healthier lifestyle,” Lim said. The benefits, he says, are vast. “I believe [a health plan] helps them, because it raises their self-esteem. If you’re eating healthy and you’re feeling healthy, when you talk to people, it shows. It’s different. And it helps them get jobs... It can lead to less poverty around the UH campus.”
Lim will graduate next May, but he hopes to create an infrastructure within the Care 4 Homeless organization that, like most other student organizations on campus, allows for a consistent mission regardless of student turnover. It can be an overwhelming prospect, Lim says, but it doesn’t stop him. “I’m definitely going forward with it.”
And he can always look back on his celebrity studded selfie for inspiration.