By Nancy Winckler-Zuniga
When Zhenghua Lin moved to this country five years ago, she decided she would have others call her Lin so they wouldn’t struggle to pronounce her first name. Finding ways to help or encourage others is part of who she is and why she decided to become a volunteer for United Way of Northeast Florida’s RealSense.
“RealSense gave me a platform to get out of my comfort zone with language while helping others,” Lin said. “Language is the bridge to connect with others, and I wanted to build that bridge.”
United Way’s RealSense is a nationally recognized financial stability initiative designed to save families money and promote responsible fiscal habits.
A Master’s candidate in accounting at the University of North Florida, Lin finds time to teach RealSense financial education classes, giving advice on everything from couponing to establishing a savings account. She finds teaching the classes boosts her self-confidence.
“Every time I prepare for the classes I learn something new,” she said. “As an international student, it’s an opportunity to know people better, and the people in Jacksonville are very friendly.”
As her confidence grew through RealSense presentations, she took on teaching financial workshops through the “Ready to Work” program, which helps prison inmates and former inmates learn to cope with the financial realities of the outside world.
“One young man came up to me after the session,” Lin said. “His eyes were sparkling, full of hope for the future.”
The desire to help others achieve financial stability has been with Lin for a long time. Growing up in the city of Hainan, China, an island in the southernmost area of China, she watched her parents bring home their own accounting work.
She became very comfortable with numbers and saw how financial independence was important. But in her early studies, she shied away from the path her parents took. It wasn’t until she came to work on her Master’s degree she returned to the path of her parents.
Lin participated in many volunteer opportunities through school – playing with children in an orphanage, visiting the elderly in nursing homes or working with autistic children – but watching a friend volunteer with Junior Achievement caught her attention, hoping one day she could be as helpful.
“It’s a good thing to make yourself useful,” Lin said.
After moving to Jacksonville to study, Lin joined the National Association of Black Accountants, and it was through that organization she met a United Way RealSense staff person who encouraged her to help with RealSense. It was a chance to give back the way she remembered her friend had, helping people make better financial decisions.
“People make mistakes,” Lin said. “In the process of coming back, if you can be a positive factor, it’s good for both of you. In Chinese culture, we believe if you do good things, good things come back to you. People who come to RealSense – they’ve crossed the line where they know they need help. If we can catch their hands, then it will be better.”
For more information on United Way of Northeast Florida’s RealSense initiative. Visit unitedwaynefl.org/realsense. If you are interested in volunteering for RealSense, visit unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer.