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UPDATED: December 6, 2008 NO. 50 DECEMBER 11, 2008
Charity Begins With One
Near death experience charts a new direction for Hollywood star

"The core need of a charity is to make it sustainable. People tend to feel a strong urge to donate after a disaster, which is good, yet not sustainable," Li said. "After some time, people return to their own worlds, and disaster fades from their minds. But vulnerable groups are still expanding in size, so it is important to give them sustained care."

Li said that giving should be made a habit. He believes that care and kindheartedness are innate natures of any individual, and could awaken at any moment. "Everyone in his or her life has an obligation to give," he said. His tenet is that one does not have to give a lot; even giving one dollar or one hour makes a difference.

If 100 million persons in China each give one yuan per month, then 100 million yuan (more than $14.5 million) will be donated in one month, Li reckoned. "Not many enterprises in the world can donate such a huge sum each month continuously," Li said.

Another way to build a sustainable charity is to integrate the resources of charity networks around the world, including non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations and enterprises, Li said.

One Foundation has partnered with China Merchants Bank (CMB) in launching a philanthropy affinity credit card, also known as the One Foundation Caring Card. By using the credit card, cardholders generate donations. The cardholders' donations, rather than assets or income, serve as a criterion for raising the credit line. In addition, cardholders can also join One Day Volunteer activities. Hurun.net rated CMB's credit card the "most popular credit card" for four consecutive years.

Philanthropy Awards

The One Foundation Philanthropy Awards was announced at the 2008 China Global Philanthropy Forum held in Beijing in early November. The award is granted to non-profit organizations that can meet international standards. By granting the winner with 1 million yuan ($146,413), One Foundation hopes to accelerate the growth of philanthropy in China. It also hopes to set up a globally accepted standard for the operation and appraisal of Chinese non-profit organizations.

Award winners are evaluated by qualitative and quantitative measurements under the four main categories of credibility, professionalism, execution and sustainability.

The finalists were listed in major Internet portals, and 144,749 netizens voted for their preferred organizations. The voting result and other background materials were submitted to the selection committee. Representatives of 16 organizations appeared before the selection committee to defend their eligibility for the award, and seven winners were eventually chosen.

Temporary guardian

Li believes that even though one might possess lot of money, one is only a temporary guardian of the wealth.

He has been good at making money. His father passed away when Li was 2 years old. As a child, Li hankered for success so that he could ease his mother's burden. He became a martial-art athlete at 11, and earned his first monthly salary, 5 yuan (about $1). At 16, his salary equaled that of a top university professor in China. Having won five martial-art championships and participated in international competitions, his income was very high by the Chinese standards of that time. He handed all his money to his mother.

But making money is not Li's only goal. In 1974, when then American President Nixon met Li, he asked, "You are such a martial-art master, will you be my bodyguard when you grow up?" Li answered, "I would like to protect 900 million Chinese people, not only you."

Now, in his 40s, Li feels it is time to use his connections and influence to protect more people. Li said, "Promoting charity is the responsibility of the second half of my life, and a new beginning in my life."

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