By Maggie Dziubek, High School Programs Administrative Assistant

In a remote area on the Tibetan plateau called Hoh Xil, conservationists work in harsh conditions to protect the area’s unique biodiversity from poachers and miners. Earlier this year, Mini Yuan, an F1 High School Program alumna from China used a Greenheart Grant to make a big difference in the lives of the people working to save this beautiful but remote land.

A Greenheart Grant is a financial award given to exemplary members of the Greenheart Club. It provides participants with the opportunity to create, improve, or maintain a community-focused project abroad or at home.

Mini Yuan cultivated a passion for the environment in her three years as an exchange student at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Minnesota. As an active member of the Greenheart Club, Mini logged plenty of volunteer hours doing things like watering trees at a nature center and cleaning up a local highway with fellow students.

Now, as a student at Johns Hopkins University, Mini is double majoring in Molecular Cellular Biology and Medicine, as well as Science and Humanity. In her (rare) free time she volunteers at a community garden close to campus. Mini likes to say she is “nutty about the environment”.

Like many Greenheart alumni, Mini is a global thinker. Two years ago she went on her first research trip to Hoh Xil, a region of the Tibetan plateau that’s home to over 230 species, 20 of which are legally protected by the Chinese government. Mini’s trip connected her with a group of conservationists who work with the local community to prevent poaching and illegal mining on the region’s wildlife reserve.

While she was visiting Hoh Xil, Mini got a taste of what life was like for the people who lived there. Although the landscape is magical, extreme temperatures make vehicles unreliable and years of irresponsible mining has made the water supply heavily mercury-poisoned.

Realizing that the welfare of the people patrolling the reserve had been routinely overlooked, Mini decided to do something to help make their lives better. She applied for a Greenheart Grant, and used most of her $1,000 award to purchase supplies for proper water filtration. With grant money to spare, she also contributed headlamps for the patrols and new gas tanks for their vehicles. Mini says she’s glad to be able to help the people who have dedicated themselves to preserve the “powerful, but fragile,” land of Hoh Xil.

Do you have an idea for a community-based project at home or abroad? The next deadline to apply for a Greenheart Grant is May 1st.