The last few weeks I have reported on some extraordinary people doing good things for others – Mohamed Bzeek who fostered children with terminal illnesses, Michael and Camille Geraldi who adopted 88 special needs children, the Habitat for Humanity building homes for low income families, and last week, the Pollination Project providing small seed grants to others to do good works. Those, my friends, are tough acts to follow. So today, I decided to pick a few of the many, many people who are out there doing small acts of kindness.
A Boy and His Best Friend …
This first story is about an 8-year-old kid whose heart is in the right place. His name is Paul Burnett, and his best friend since kindergarten is Kamden Houshan. Kamden was born with a tumour on his T2 and T3 vertebras and he is a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair. The problem is that Kamden’s wheelchair is very heavy and has tipped over a number of times, spilling poor Kamden onto the ground. The state medical services will not pay for a light-weight wheelchair, and Kamden’s parents are struggling to make ends meet as it is, so they cannot afford one.
At the end of second grade, Paul told his mom he wanted to help Kamden get a new wheelchair. Well now how does an eight-year-old kid propose to pay for a wheelchair that would cost nearly $4,000? One word: GoFundMe. Paul had recently seen a video about fundraising websites and he thought if he started a campaign for Kamden he could raise enough money to get him a customized wheelchair.
With just a little help, he set up the GoFundMe page with a goal of $3,900 and wrote the following:
“Hi my name is Paul. Here is a picture of me and my best friend Kamden. We have been friends since kindergarten and we love to play superheroes during recess. We love to go to McDonald’s to eat Happy Meals and play at the park. My friend Kamden was born with something on his spine and he can’t walk. He has been in a wheelchair since before I met him. I asked my mom if I can go on Go Fund Me to help Kamden get a new wheelchair. His wheelchair has fallen forward many times and that sucks. Also, he has a really hard time pushing it because its so heavy. But do you even know what’s worse than that? His wheelchair is too big for him to fit in his bathroom. He can’t even fit through the door and use the toilet without asking for help. If he gets a new wheelchair he’s going to be more comfortable and he’ll do more things on his own. I think he would go super fast if he got this new chair and we can play more. Please help Kamden.”
Almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? It must have touched some hearts, because within two weeks, the goal had been met, and when I checked earlier, there were over $6,000 in donations! You may remember that back in May 2016 I wrote a fairly negative article about GoFundMe titled GoFundMe … At Your Own Risk, and there certainly are many less-than-noble causes out there. But I must admit that recently I have seen some good causes, like Paul’s, and may have to step back on my opinion of the crowdfunding platform.
Anyway, the story has a happy ending! Kamden’s new wheelchair is being custom-made as we speak and he will receive it later this month! I love stories about young children doing special things for other people, for if their heart is that good at such a young age, I can just imagine what great people they will grow up to be! Two thumbs-up to young Paul!
Neema Village: A Place of Hope
In Tanzania, East Africa, a baby rescue center called Neema Village has saved over 100 abandoned, orphaned, and at-risk infants in just 5 years. The list is long of places the infants have been found — by the roadside, in a yard, a gravel pit, a hotel, a latrine... Mostly they are the babies of mothers who have died or were unable to care for them. Dorris Fortson, co-founder of Neema Village says, “My husband and I were moved to do something about it for many reasons, including that we were retired and that I had been raised in an orphanage from age four to 18. You’re never too old to make a difference.”
Michael and Dorris spent 50 years doing missionary work and thus had lived in Tanzania during the 1960s and early 1970s. In 2008, Michael and Dorris Fortson took a trip to Tanzania with two of their children, Rob and Bekah, who were born there. Driving through the large cities they were appalled at the large number of children living and begging on the streets, and it was then that they decided to do something to help.
It took time and hard work, but finally on July 15, 2012 their efforts paid off, and Neema House, as it was called then, became a reality.
The goal of Neema Village is not to become an orphanage, but to rescue abandoned babies, then find them homes. Sometimes they find a home through adoption, other times with extended family if the mother has died. Such was the case with Deborah, one of a set of triplets, each weighing less than 3 pounds and not expected to survive.
After weeks in the hospital, then two years at Neema, the triplets were on their way home to extended family, healthy and happy, as you can see in this picture.
There are so many heartwarming stories, but I cannot share them all, so take a peek at their website and read more about all the good they are doing. Neema Village is a 501(c)3 registered non profit in the USA and a registered NGO in Tanzania. The Fortson’s live on their retirement incomes and do not accept any salary. Much of the work at Neema is done by volunteers like Casey McMullan who showed up in May with another student, Lexi Koon, to spend eight weeks at Neema. Apparently many are eager to volunteer to work with these adorable babies, for when I went to the ‘volunteer’ section of their website, I was greeted with this message:
We are full to the brim and overflowing for June and July 2017!! Please do not apply! Thanks
The mission of Neema expanded as the Fortson’s came to realize that the problem went far beyond abandoned babies. They now offer a wide range of progams designed to help women better care for their babies, survive childbirth, find ways to supplement the family income, have better nutrition, lift widows from lives of neglect and abuse and impact the surrounding Maasai villages through water wells and medical care.
My hat is off to Michael and Dorris Fortson for choosing to spend their retirement years doing such a wonderful service for humanity!
The Cloud With A Silver Lining
On Sunday, 09 July, Cassie Bennet, her son, Kenneth, 15, and daughter Keirstan, 10 lost their Mobile, Alabama home to fire. Everything … gone up in smoke. Cassie had fallen asleep and left a scented-wax warmer plugged in, which somehow caught fire. Volunteer firefighters valiantly fought the blaze, but the house could not be saved.
Now, this story actually has a couple of good people doing good things. The first is young Kenneth who, having lost everything he owned … clothing, his flag collection, and all the other things that young boys treasure … was standing outside watching his home burn to the ground, when he glanced over and noticed that the firemen’s cooler was empty. Wanting to thank them for their heroic efforts, Kenneth took all the money he had — $40 that he had been saving to take his girlfriend out the next week – and went and bought cases of water for the firemen!
But the story doesn’t end there. The following week, stuck in interstate traffic, tired, stressed and frustrated, Cassie called in to a local traffic service to find out how long the delay might be. She connected with the nameless, faceless Mobile Traffic Guy, as he’s locally known. After getting an update on the traffic situation, Cassie needed to share her story with someone, so she reached out to the traffic guy, telling him about the fire, but mostly about how proud she was of her son Kenneth for doing what he did.
Now the Mobile guy has some 43,000 followers on his Facebook page so he reaches a wide audience. And he has something else, something even more important … a big heart. With the help of an anonymous donor, the Mobile guy secretly arranged for a limo, formal wear donated from a local wedding store, and dinner at a nice restaurant for Kenneth and his girlfriend!
Small things … $40 of water, a night on the town for two teens … but important things nonetheless. Plus … a GoFundMe page was set up which has already amassed $6,300 to help the family, as their insurance does not cover a place to stay nor the contents of their home.
These are the small acts of kindness that prove a person’s humanity. These are the things that separate the givers from the takers. Kudos to both Kenneth and the Mobile Traffic Guy!
I actually had two other stories, but I am far beyond what I consider a readable post in word count, so I shall save them for another Wednesday. Take heart folks, there are an awful lot of good people out there doing good things in the world!