A high school student in southwest China who raised money for survivors of a devastating earthquake by selling cookies and her own watercolor paintings will attend next month's inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama.
Li Zizi, 16, is making the trip because she participated in the Global Young Leaders Conference in New York and Washington this past summer. The program, run by a US-based nonprofit, invites alumni to attend the US presidential inauguration every four years.
Li moved in August to Sichuan province, which was rocked by a 8.0-magnitude earthquake in May that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing. She now attends the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Language School, which is close to many of the hardest-hit areas.
Her family is from Sichuan, but she was born and raised in Japan and living there when the quake hit.
"I was so worried, we were on the phone and on the computer dialing away and we couldn't get through to anyone because all the phone connections were down," she said in a phone interview Monday. "I couldn't wait to get back and start volunteering for stuff and fundraising."
Li baked sugar cookies to sell at her school and sold some of her watercolor paintings.
"We had some friends over for dinner once, and they were like, 'Oh you're really good, you should sell them,"' Li recalled.
She eventually earned $500 to go toward school supplies for children in the quake zone.
Li also sponsors two children, one in first grade and the other in third, whose parents were forced to find work far away in order to earn money to rebuild their homes. Li provides the children with pocket money and tickets to travel to see their parents.
Because of her own upbringing abroad, Li said she feels a kinship with Obama, whom she called a "miracle."
"He's the perfect thing at the perfect moment for America," she said.
While in Washington, the teen and other students from her program, from the US and around the world, are scheduled to listen to speakers like Al Gore and Lance Armstrong.
"And I definitely want to see the White House," she added.