Open up a web browser. Google, Yahoo, Chrome. Anything.
Now, type in the word, “charity.” Click the first link you find, and within a few clicks, you’re usually led to an organization helping the homeless, hungry people in places like Syria or Africa.
I agree that those target groups are in need, and it is so inspirational to what lengths and to what success some have found in their philanthropic ambitions. But what about a group of people who have been forgotten in the philanthropic world?
I’d like you to close your eyes and brainstorm. Who might those people be?
For me, those people are hospital children with chronic diseases. Sure, the hospital takes care of them very well physically, but because there are so many other sectors (elders, adults, etc.) in a hospital, many institutions don’t have the resources to focus on empowering the children. Many children don’t really believe in themselves, and think that they are somehow inferior to normal children just because there is a stigma of sick, ‘weird” hospital children. They don’t believe that they can be something more, or that they can make a change in the world.
Do I think I can, as one person, can alleviate this world-wide problem alone? No.
However, I do believe that every one of us, children, teenagers, adults, can alleviate this problem in our local places and spread awareness of this problem. We all have the potential to change the lives of people around us. How absurd, you may think. What can a child or a teenager possibly do?
Well, to answer that, I’ll have to tell you the story of how I came to the point I am now. Two months before my 14th birthday, I had taken up a summer job of teaching English to students.
There was one teenager named J, with a gangly walk and a laid-back look on life. The first time he walked in, he barely spoke. “Stupid” he used to say about his English with an uneasy smile. That was what everyone had told him.
One summer passed, and we got to know each other better. There were numerous times when the lines between teacher and student blurred, into friend teaching another friend. Bit by bit, I was able to get him to smile, to laugh, and to relax. I still remember, one of the last meetings i had with him, he told me he wanted to be a steward. That lesson, I taught him how to say all the safety precautions in English.
Through my parents, I heard that J’s parents had seen him improve, not only in his English speaking skills, but in confidence and motivation. He had gotten better in school and seemed to have an aim in life. He had changed from the shy boy with the uneasy smile to one that was willing to, with some encouragement, walk up to tourists on the street and practice his English. His parents had told him how much their lives had changed, and I saw in J the power to change other people’s lives. That was when I realized. It’s not about changing other people’s lives. It’s about empowering other people to change their lives and the lives of the people around them, in a ripple effect.
A few months later, I started teaching dance to hospital children. I thought nothing of it, since I assumed a lot of volunteers taught these kind of activities. A few months later, my mother pulled me aside. An iMovie screen filled her computer, and one of my students’ face (a cancer patient) filled it. “Did I ever thought to dance before?” she started, unblinkingly. “No. Do I want to now? Definitely yes.” Her smile widens as she tells her how much hope she had found in dancing. ‘If you could teach us more, I promise, I’ll even wake up the boy next to me and tell him to dance. It’s better than dying,” she said, light in her eyes.
That was when I realized how much even just a small amount of outside attention and care can help these children. Even a girl who taught them dance for fun represented to them someone who truly cared about them. The children I had taught now knew that someone was out there, listening to them. And that gave them hope.
So in the past few months, I have continued my dance classes whenever I am in Thailand, and have also created dance videos (in both Thai and English) and am staring to Skype them when I cannot be with them due to boarding school. In the future, you never know, maybe I’ll even collect enough footage to create a short documentary or film about this issue.
Very recently, I’ve started expanding this initiative (which I named “Light Footsteps:) to not only my local hospital, but also to the internet via youtube, so people around the world can access it and become aware of the situation of hospital children. Maybe, even one day, a few other people from different parts of the world will become inspired and start empowering hospital children in their communities.
I’d just like to finish off with one of my favorite quotes. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” (Oscar Wilde). I’d like to help more hospital children lift up their heads and look at the sky, knowing that they can change the world and do whatever they want, and believing.
Please, share this blog post with anyone you may know. I’m counting on you, reader, to help me spread the word.