Thursday, August 10, 2023

Seven Days of Impact

Written by: Angelina Anh Laute


If I had to summarize my 7 days interning at a children's home for orphans in one word, it would be: moving. I was moved by the passion and hard work of the leaders, and their dedication to making the world a better place. I was moved by the resilience and courage of the children and the fight they fight every day for their lives. I was moved by how they forced me to experience the joys and challenges of a type of life I was never exposed to before. I was moved as I came back through the doors every day a little bit stronger.

When it was time for my classmates and me to pick an area of work that we wanted to join for “World of Work” – a Western Academy initiative where all grade 10 students get a taste of the workforce by undertaking one-week internships– I knew immediately that I wanted to have my experience with them.


The backbone of all this is a team of strong, inspiring, compassionate women. In one small office, these women change the lives of hundreds of children. Each member is responsible for one component of the complex operational processes that makes this a successful nonprofit organization capable of making large, meaningful impacts. When they come together as a team, they are a powerful force of good where every action is dedicated to improving the lives of the children in their care. Every day, these women must adapt to constant changes in their work, opening their arms to new children entering the program and finding new, innovative ways to share the good work that they do with others. No matter how challenging work can get, they always have the safety and happiness of their children as the number one priority.


It would be a lie if I didn’t say the first few days of my internship were nerve-racking. All the children had their own experiences with their unique medical conditions and being abandoned as a baby. I was in no place to pretend to know exactly how they felt every day based on my childhood experiences. For every child, I had to be aware of their medical conditions and get to know their personalities so when playing with them so I could ensure they were safe and comfortable. I had to know whom I could not play very physically with, who just had surgery and had a specific part of their body that had to be treated with care, who was more shy, and who enjoyed drawing, reading, or singing. I had to be calm, be fully in the moment, and be a role model because I knew they were learning from the actions I made around them. As a result, I had some of the best hours with them. They taught me how to positively interact with others with awareness, patience, respect, and a whole lot of fun.


One boy, in particular, taught me this the most – his name is Ping. Ping suffers from a genetic skin disease (epidermolysis bullosa or EB) that leaves him with blisters around his whole body. Every day his caregivers spend hours gently rubbing ointment around his body and wrapping him, head to toe, with bandages like a “mummy”.  I could only try to relate to the discomfort, insecurity, and even physical pain that Ping may experience through thinking of my brother who also suffered from skin issues when he was younger, but even so, those were just 1% of what Ping goes through. I could only imagine, how hard daily life was for him. So, it wasn’t a surprise the last time I saw Ping 2 years ago, he didn’t say anything to me. It wasn’t a surprise that I hadn’t clearly heard his voice before this week, that he would always sit by the window and take on the observer’s role and watch all the other children interact with guests from the side. But I think during this time, he has become aware of his surroundings, understanding the daily system within the children’s home, and has now taken on the big brother role for all the younger children he lives with. Because when I saw Ping this week, the moment I walk through the door every morning – even if he was taking a potty on the toilet –  I would hear a friendly voice, 姐姐你好!” – “Hi Sister!”. Even though I was only with the children for one week, I experienced a glimpse of the magical feeling the caretakers were describing to me one day – a feeling of bliss and fulfillment as they watched the children grow, fight through challenges, and moments of difficulty to become the healthy and happy version of themselves they are today.



One day I came to the workplace in two braids and one of the little girls said she loved them and wished she could have ones of her own too. So, we sat down on the ground together and I started to braid her hair. As the minutes went by, we sang aloud to songs playing on her toy radio, she showed me her favorite puzzle which made me have to keep reminding her to look upwards and not on the ground so I could properly braid her hair, she gave me an in-depth explanation of her favorite colors and flowers, and I read to her the Ugly Duckling as she was in charge of flipping the pages in the picture book. There’s a sort of intimacy that we fell into while I braided her hair, the same kind that I felt with my mom and me. I always took for granted, that I would have someone to braid my hair, someone to read picture books to me. It's these smallest things about a family that gives you memories you never forget. I am grateful that I was able to have those small moments when I was younger, and I am so happy I was able to give the little girl that experience.


No matter how much I want to believe it as untrue and no matter how hard we try to make it that way– I know there will always be children left behind on the streets. But what I learned during my week here, is that compassion isn’t about solutions. It’s about doing what you can, where you are, with what you have, to leave someone just a little bit happier than before you crossed paths with them. It’s amazing how one person can make a difference in a child’s life. No matter how big or small that difference is, it’s important I believe to try. And every time I try, I safe in the knowledge that compassion will create a ripple that has no logical end. This ripple can start with me, and it can start with you too.


I was touched by the words imprinted on the back of the T-shirts worn by the caregivers and team. “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something. – Mother Theresa”.

The drops of these women have given the children a future with hope. My drops have given the children a week of laughter and smiles. The drops that the children have given us all, is the reminder every day, of what beautiful, powerful things can be done with sheer human love.

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