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CSA brings Chinese YouTube stars to Rice

By Ellen Liu     9/22/11 7:00pm

The Chinese Student Association brought two YouTube stars from the Jubilee Project to Rice University to talk about the power of social media and their project's ultimate vision last Saturday.

The Jubilee Project is a team of three college graduates – Eric Lu, and brothers Eddie and Jason Lee – who make YouTube videos to raise money for a variety of nonprofit causes. Each video supports a specific cause. The team's most popular video, "Love Language," has received over 1 million views and raised money for the American Society for Deaf Children.

The team partners with various nonprofit organizations to promote and raise donations for their causes, Lu said. For every view their videos get, the Jubilee Project receives one cent from their sponsors, Lu said. He added that anyone can sign to be a sponsor and can also set a limit on how much they donate through the penny-per-view method.

The Jubilee Project decides which nonprofits to work with on a case-by-case basis, Lu said. He noted that a lot of groups have contacted them, and they also reach out to organizations working on issues they care about. Lee and Lu said they have found their true passions through this charitable work.

"Starting the Jubilee Project was kind of like falling in love for the first time," Lee noted.

Lu and Lee wanted to hear what issues college students today are going through and how they connect with people and effect genuine change, Lu said. Now is the time to lead such change because there was so much energy and power in social media, he said.

Lu, a graduate student at Harvard Medical School, and Lee, who creates videos for the President Obama campaign and Department of Education, formed the Jubilee Project around one and a half years ago with Eddie's brother, Jason – a consultant at Bain and Co. All three of them shared a love for making videos and impacting society positively, Lu said.

"Shortly after the Haiti earthquake, Jason wanted to do something for the recovery cause and decided to play guitar in the New York Subway," Lu said. "He raised some money, posted a video on YouTube challenging people to match that money and ultimately received over $700 of donations for the earthquake victims."

Much of the inspiration for their films came from the team's personal experiences, Lu said.

"Eric and Jason were raised in a stereotypical Asian family," Lu noted. "Their parents saw filmmaking as a hobby and weren't too happy with his recent decision to pursue it seriously, though they've changed their minds since."

The name Jubilee Project stemmed from the Bible, which states that freedom will be given in the year of Jubilee, Lu said. He said this idea resonated with the team's goal of spreading joy around the world.

After the main event, the Jubilee Project joined 30 CSA members for a private dinner at the Ocean Palace restaurant.

CSA Co-President Christine Sun worked with the CSA board to bring the Jubilee Project to Rice. She said she saw one of their videos on Hepatitis B while working at the Asian Liver Center in Stanford University, noticed they were doing a college tour and decided to contact them.

"All it took was one email to them and the rest was history," Sun, a Brown College senior, said.

Fellow Co-President Grace Ching explained that the CSA board was interested in the Jubilee Project because they're trying to reach out beyond the hedges and promote awareness of issues that affect Asian Americans. Ching, a Duncan College senior, said the board wanted the Jubilee Project to give a workshop on how students could make a difference through social media.

Ching and Sun both said they thought the dinner after the workshop was the best part of the Jubilee Project's visit.

"They took the time to talk to everyone at the restaurant trip and joked that they felt like a wedding couple, rotating around each table together," Sun said. "They truly made us feel like equals with them, even asking for our autographs on the back of a poster we made for them that Eric took back home to Boston."

Sun said CSA plans to stay in touch with the Jubilee Project and hopes to see them visit again next year. Ching added that the CSA board is looking into inviting other influential Asian Americans next semester.

Martel College sophomore Zainab Shipchandler said she had not heard much about the Jubilee Project prior to the event but was inspired and moved to tears by their videos. She added that she was impressed by their humility and believed they brought out the best in people.

"The Jubilee Project is more than three guys and a camera," Lu said. "If this whole thing is just about us getting 1 million YouTube hits, then we've failed."

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