Mason Alumna Begins Charity, Encourages Civic Engagement

by Sidney Davis, WGST intern

Mason Alumna Begins Charity, Encourages Civic Engagement
Soriya Eath, founder and organizer of Unity through Philanthropy (UTP)
With the advent of April, we’re celebrating new beginnings that come with spring. Coincidentally, April is also Asian American Pacific Heritage Month at Mason. For too long, there’s been a lack of pan-Asian representation throughout academia and other higher institutions. 
Our theme to celebrate this month is “Our Faces, Our Voices” in order to challenge the erasure of the many contributions and importance of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi communities. For the month of April, we’ll be featuring students and community members who strive to improve their collective agency and strengthen their collective identity.  
Our first feature is Mason alumna Soriya Eath. Eath had an urge to start a charity as an undergrad in 2017 and wanted to focus on impoverished communities in mountainous areas of Cambodia and Vietnam, particularly school-aged youth. Below, you’ll find our interview with her:
1. What gave you the idea to start this philanthropy, and how long did it take to organize?
The idea stems from simple awareness. The injustices found throughout the world cannot go unnoticed. I believe that young individuals living in poverty, especially children are one of the most vulnerable populations that do not have a voice. The education system is made to be a privilege; however, I believe that it should be a right. 
2. Within this population, which of the S'tiêng children are the most vulnerable/at risk and why?
For this project we had to decide if we were to fundraise for the S'tiêng children or the Vietnamese orphans who are being under the care of the temple we are working with. The S'tiêng ethnic group are found in Vietnam’s highlands of Binh Phuoc province. They do not have resources to go to school and it is their tradition to typically marry early. Parents of S'tiêng children earn very little to support the many needs of their children. From this, my charity decided to pick the most vulnerable group out of the two available options. 
3. How has photojournalism help strengthened your cause and philanthropy?
It is a slow progression to gain followers and potential supporters especially when money donations are needed. However, being on Instagram and Facebook has helped raise awareness to the issues we want to address.  I also take out 10% of the proceeds from my photography work to help fund for my charity projects. Combining my artwork and mission has been easier to strengthening my cause and the philanthropy that comes with it. 
4. Have you noticed any gender-based issues overall?
Unfortunately, I have not studied the S'tiêng children to know [extensively about] gender-based issues. However, I was told by Co [a representative in Vietnam] That this group tends to marry at an early age. From this, we can tell that both girls and boys are not getting the education that they need. 
5. Anything else you want me to know about Unity Through Philanthropy and its 
corresponding GoFundMe?
Our future plans for UTP is to create a thrift shop. One of our values is to be environmentally friendly. We also do park clean ups in the summer, please feel free to join us when the time comes! We believe that a thrift shop could be a funding branch just like our freelance photography. With this, we do not have to entirely rely on donations for our fundraiser projects. Some of the proceeds from the branches combined will help fund for our mission to help young individuals living in impoverish conditions to move forward and obtain a proper education.
6. What would you like UTP to look like in the next few months, or the next year even?
I hope for UTP to have a solid art branch in the next few months […] We are currently working on designs. We also plan to be more active with our photography work, to build our portfolio and gain clients so we can start funding for our next project. We are not sure what country to help out next […] we are still developing our organization, so we are focused on short term goals, rather than long-term goals due to the minimum funds that we are currently raising. However, we are so eager to help many individuals who cries are not heard.  For now, growth is our main goal. 
7. In what other ways can the greater Mason community help, in addition to donating?
To work with us and give us your ideas! We recently had an ice-skating event to help fund UTP. Additionally, if you have a country in mind that is in need of help, please reach out to us. We rely on our community to be the voice of vulnerable groups all around the world. 
For more information about UTP and Asian-American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month: