Good People Doing Good Things — Liam and Scott Hannon

Last night when I began working on my ‘good people’ post, I intended to write about 3 or 4 people, as I often do, and I picked one with which to begin.  But, before long I was up to nearly 700 words and still had more to say about this remarkable duo … a boy and his dad …

liam-7Today, please allow me to introduce to you 12-year-old Liam Hannon of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Liam’s dad typically sent him to camp for a portion of each summer, but in 2017, when Liam was just ten, he informed his dad that he didn’t want to go to camp that year.  Dad said okay but insisted that Liam find something productive and positive to keep himself busy through the summer.

That first week of summer vacation, Liam and his dad found an online treasure hunt game called Brain Chase, where Liam chose three topics to focus on, one of which was ‘service’.  The game challenged Liam to find some way, some project to give back to his community.  Liam thought about the homeless people he saw every day right outside his building, and he had an idea.  The idea was to make … sandwiches!  Sandwiches to pass out to the people who needed them most.  And thus was Liam’s Lunches of Love born.liam-6In the first week, Liam loaded up a wagon and handed out 20 sandwiches with his dad’s help. He went from sandwiches to complete bag lunches, upgraded the wagon to a hand-cart, and to date has served up more than 2,000 bag lunches to homeless people in his neighborhood.  He doesn’t just make the lunches (with some help from dad), but on each and every lunch bag, he writes a handwritten message, often accompanied by an encouraging little bit of artwork.liam-3Liam hopes to someday expand his philanthropy to include animal rescue.  A story his dad tells of one incident furthers our faith in Liam’s good heart …

His father remembers Liam’s first animal rescue: a bucket of 15 baitfish. Father and son had gone fishing. Liam watched his dad jab one small fish with a fishing hook. The boy held the bucket against his chest.  “I heard him tell the fish, ‘Don’t worry. It’s OK. I’m going to talk to him,’” Scott said.  Liam persuaded his father to throw every single baitfish back into the water, including the one on the hook so he could ‘be with his friends.’ “He’s just a wise soul for his age,” Scott said.

Now, Liam obviously has a huge heart and is a ‘good people’, but I think his dad, Scott, has to get some of the credit here, too.  Scott doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk, and Liam has grown up seeing the examples set by his dad.

“One time, Liam said, ‘Dad, did you just tell that lady she didn’t have to pay you?’ And I said, ‘Yes, she’s 90 and lives on her own and has no one to help. That $80 means nothing to me.’ He has learned like that, but he’s always been a very empathetic kid.”

Scott is a single parent, working at a mid-level job and lives in a rent-controlled building, so needless to say, there came a point early on in this venture where they needed help to pay for the groceries for the lunches Liam was handing out.

“That first week, we made 20 lunches. That was going to be it, but then Liam said, ‘Dad, can we do this again? I like doing this.’…So we kept doing it, and each week it grew a little bit more.”

So, they started a GoFundMe.   Over the weeks, donations poured in to help Liam’s Lunches of Love, and local grocery stores contributed meals, too. Friends and neighbors also volunteered their time to hand out bags, which freed Liam and Scott up to spend more time with each recipient and get to know them. And that experience has opened their eyes.

“Liam has learned a lot about the difference between what a real homeless person is like versus the idea he had in his head just from seeing people on the street. He realized they’re a lot different than he thought they were, and he’s grown up a little because of it.”

liam-1Liam and his Liam’s Lunches of Love have received national recognition from ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, the Boston Globe and others.  But the real honour came last month when Liam was one of five young people showcased on CNN’s “Young Wonders: A CNN Heroes Special” hosted by Anderson Cooper.  Take a look …

The five were also honoured the next night on “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute”.  As Anderson Cooper said at that event …

“The next generation reminds us of the unwavering foundation that really connects us all — incredible acts of kindness, unconditional love and the promise of a better tomorrow.”

liam-8I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Hats off and two thumbs up to Liam and his dad Scott … these are the people who remind us what humanity is really about, don’t you think?

For more about Liam, his dad and this project, be sure to check out the Liam’s Lunches of Love website.

Good People Doing Good Things — Betty Kwan Chinn

You are going to fall in love with today’s ‘good person’ …gateway-to-life.pngHer name is Betty Chinn, and as you may have already guessed, she is originally from China.  I’ll let her tell you about the days of her childhood …

Betty-Chinn“I was born in a very good family. I’m one of 12 kids. And then in the 1960s, they had the Cultural Revolution. My mom was a US citizen and a Western educator. My mom believed in God, religion. Because my parents had religion and education, my family was a target for the government.

I was separated from my family and I lived on the street by myself. I had to wear a sign on my neck that said, ‘I’m a child of the devil.’ I had nothing to eat, hungry all the time. Every time when I asked for food, I was beaten up by people. Torture, separation from my family, abandoned, betrayal … this all happened at a very young age.

My sister took me out of the country … and then to Hong Kong. I did not know my birthday.

I had never been to school. I stayed home. Then I found my best friends on Sesame Street. They were the ones who taught me English.

Each day when I get up in the morning, I get moving, that’s my birthday. I am celebrating my birthday every single day when I can move, and I can breathe. I have my freedom. That’s the way I look at it.”

And now that you know how Ms. Chinn got her start in life, let’s take a look with what she is doing today.  Eventually Betty was sent to live with a sibling in California and settled in the town of Eureka in Humboldt County.  Married to now-retired Humboldt State University physics professor, Leung Chinn, the couple had two sons, and it was this that would spark Betty’s passion for helping others.

One day in 1984, while volunteering at her son’s elementary school, one of his classmates complained that she was always hungry.  Betty began putting an extra sandwich in her son’s lunch for the girl, only to discover a few days later that the girl and her family were homeless, living out of their car. So, Betty began sending extra food for the family, as well.  Although she didn’t realize it yet, she had just started down the path that would last for the rest of her life. She began observing people in the town and was shocked to see how many other people were in the same situation and decided to make it her mission to provide for the less fortunate in her community.

“I’d do anything I could do to make people not hungry. When I even hear somebody say, ‘I’m hungry,’ my stomach hurts. I feel the hunger inside me. I still remember the hunger.”

She used income from her part-time job to buy food, which she would load into her car and deliver to people living on the street, under bridges and highways, anywhere she could find them. At first, she didn’t tell anyone about what she was doing – not even her husband.

“He did ask me, from time to time, ‘Why are you cooking so much food? Why we buy so much food from the supermarket?'”

He eventually found out – ten years later – and is now her biggest supporter!

Though she never publicized what she was doing, Chinn’s efforts were noticed and appreciated. In 2008, she received the Minerva Award for remarkable women from California’s first lady, Maria Shriver, which included a $25,000 prize.  By now, I’m sure you can guess that Betty did not spend that money on new clothes and a lavish vacation, right?  Nope, she built showers!  Yep, you heard me right … showers.  The following March, she opened Eureka’s first (only) free public shower facility, with the mantra “Providing Dignity One Shower at a Time”.

In 2010, she was one of 13 recipients of the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama, the nation’s second highest civilian award. She was honored for showing how one person can touch the lives of hundreds of people whom the rest of the world has forgotten.Chinn-Obama-2010It was at that point that she started dreaming of opening a “Betty’s House,” a type of central location where she could help clients keep warm and fed while connecting them with a variety of services housed under one roof.  Four years later, this dream culminated in the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center which houses Betty’s commercial kitchen, helps clients connect with services, jobs and housing, while also offering after school care, wellness courses, and educational programming for homeless Betty didn’t stop there!  In 2016, she opened Betty’s House, a family shelter that provides transitional housing up to 8 families at a time, giving them the stability, services, and support needed to find a permanent place to live. The shelter’s downstairs, operated in partnership with St. Joseph Hospital, offers a space for up to 10 homeless people recently discharged from the hospital to convalesce under a nurse’s 24/7 care.betty-house-front.png


Betty-house-2Betty-house-3But we’re still not done …

Also in 2016, as the city of Eureka was working to clear its largest homeless encampment from a greenbelt near the bay, Betty partnered with the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights to convert some old Connex shipping containers into a housing village, known now as Betty’s Blue Angel Village, that shelters up to 40 people at a time while offering intensive wrap around services aimed at transitioning them into permanent housing situations. It is one of few shelters on the West coast that allows animals.Village-1Village-2There is so much more I could write about Betty Chinn … this woman … this woman is so good, has done so much for her community, that my words feel inadequate to describe her.  Betty arises at 2:07 every morning, ready to go, seven days a week, rain or shine.  I recommend paying a brief visit to her website, The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation, where you will find additional information, photo galleries and more.

In 2015, she received yet another award from President Obama …2015-Chinn-ObamaLast week, Ms. Chinn was named one of CNN’s Heroes … an honour well-deserved. In addition to American recognition, Betty has received commendations from China and is hailed as the “Hong Kong Angel.”  And around Humboldt County, she is known as the ‘Chinese Mother Teresa’.  Eureka’s police chief, Andrew Mills, described her as a philanthropic force of nature. “It’s a humbling experience just to sit in her presence.”

Heck, I found it humbling just to research and write about this woman … I am in awe.  If I had a third, I would give this woman three thumbs up, but as I have only two, I shall give her both.  Thank you, Betty Kwan Chinn, for making such a wonderful difference in the lives of so many!  👍👍

Good People Doing Good Things — The Teacher & The Bridgebuilder

Today I have not one, but two ‘good people’ for you, and … a surprise ending!  If these two people don’t bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart, then I don’t know what will.  Gronda … grab your box of tissues. For today’s story, we travel to Kenya on the African continent …

The teacher …

Can you imagine being engaged at the tender young age of five, being expected to leave school to marry, bear children and become a homemaker in your early teens?  That is exactly what was expected of Kakenya Ntaiya, who spent her childhood in the small Maasai village of Enoosaen in Western Kenya. She was the oldest of eight children, working hard alongside men tending the fields and helping her mother haul water and care for her siblings. The family was very poor, but young Kakenya would dream of a better life. School was her respite and she excelled at it, dreaming of becoming a teacher, but her life was set to follow the traditional path of ending school to become a wife and a mother.  Kakenya’s dream was important enough that she was willing to defy her father in order to return to finish high school.

Eventually, she was accepted to college in the United States and awarded a scholarship, but she needed help to travel there.  She reached out to her community and promised that in exchange for their support, she would return to the village and use her education to help them.  And that is just what she did.  The villagers all pitched in and collected money to help Kakenya, and off she went to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now the co-ed Randolph College) in Virginia.  Although Kakenya had grown up without electricity, it didn’t take her long to get the hang of writing papers on a computer.  She also became the first youth advisor to the United Nations Population Fund, where she traveled the world as a passionate advocate for girls’ education. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where she received her Ph.D. in Education.

And during it all, she never forgot her promise to her village. Kakenya returned to her village in Maasai where only 11% of girls even finish primary school, and in 2009 she opened the first primary school for girls in her village, the Kakenya Center for Excellence.  The Kakenya Center for Excellence started as a traditional day school, but now the students, who range from fourth to eighth grade, live at the school. This spares the girls from having to walk miles back and forth, which puts them at risk of being sexually assaulted, a common problem in rural African communities. It also ensures the girls don’t spend all their free time doing household chores.the schoolStudents receive three meals a day as well as uniforms, books and tutoring. There are also extracurricular activities such as student council, debate and soccer. Class sizes are small — many schools in Kenya are extremely overcrowded — and the girls have more chances to participate. With these opportunities and the individual attention they receive, the girls are inspired to start dreaming big.

“They want to become doctors, pilots, lawyers. It’s exciting to see that. Fathers are now saying, ‘My daughter could do better than my son’.”

As a public school, the Kakenya Center for Excellence receives some financial support from the Kenyan government. But the majority of the school’s expenses are paid for by Ntaiya’s U.S.-based nonprofit, Kakenya’s Dream. While families are asked to contribute to cover the cost of the girls’ meals, an expense that can be paid in maize or beans, Ntaiya covers the costs of any students who cannot pay.traditiional dance.jpgEach year, more than 100 girls apply for approximately 30 spots available in each new class. Parents who enroll their daughters must agree that they will not be subjected to genital mutilation or early marriage.

Her nonprofit also runs health and leadership camps that are open to all sixth-grade girls in the village and teach them about female circumcision, child marriage, teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.

“We tell them about every right that they have, and we teach them how to speak up. It’s about empowering the girls.”

in classToday, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya reaches thousands of young girls and community members each year through the holistic, and girl-centered programs she pioneered at Kakenya’s Dream.  There is much more I could say about Dr. Kekenya Ntaiya, but I want to introduce you to the other ‘good person’ …

The bridge-builder …

Harmon-ParkerHarmon Parker is a bricklayer who became a master mason early in his life. Just an everyday, average workingman, he spent some time working with a developmental group in Africa some twenty years ago. And he heard the stories … stories like this one …

Nengume could see the lights of the clinic, not far away, shining in the deep darkness of the landscape. As the lights grew brighter, her hope grew stronger. Help for her child was near. She adjusted the baby on her back and pushed ahead. Then, she heard the sound she had feared, and hope faded quickly into the dark, angry waters of the rushing river.

The same life-sustaining waters that provided so much were now keeping her from the help she needed. An attempt to cross the floodwaters, especially at night, would mean certain death. A safe place to cross could be more than twenty miles down the river. She looked up again and saw the lights on the other side of the river – hope just out of reach.

bridge in useNegume’s was just one of many such stories, and as he listened, Harmon Parker saw his path.  Harmon Parker began building footbridges over dangerous rivers in Kenya more twenty years ago.  Since 1997, Harmon Parker has helped build more than 60 footbridges over perilous rivers in Kenya.  He established Bridging the Gap Africa (BtGA), a nonprofit that doesn’t just build the bridges, but involves the community so that the people truly feel they are a part of the effort.  Their mission statement is simple:

BtGABridging the Gap Africa (BtGA) believes that marginalized African communities should not suffer from the dangers posed by impassable rivers.  Footbridges prevent drowning and ensure safe, uninterrupted access to education, health care, and economic opportunity. BtGA builds bridges that save lives.

And this is what Harmon Parker has dedicated his life to for the past 20 years.

Both Dr. Ntaiya and Mr. Parker certainly qualify by themselves as ‘good people doing good things’, but wait!  There’s more!  These two, each having been a ‘CNN Hero’, met at a CNN Heroes event and felt an instant connection.  It happened that a bridge near Kakenya’s village had recently been washed away in flood waters, leaving many children unable to get to school.


Harmon Parker & Kakenya Ntaiya

“I’ve got a project for you!” said Kakenya, and Mr. Parker rose to the challenge.  See them tell the story themselves …


Now wasn’t that awesome?  These two people and their sheer level of dedication to making life a bit better warmed my heart, and I hope it did yours too.  Have a great day, friends!

Good People Doing Good Things — Luke Mickelson

I had to flip a coin tonight, for I was hard-pressed to decide between two good people, both of whom are dedicating their lives to helping children.  I didn’t want to leave either one behind, but there was only so much time, so after the coin flip, I promise to bring you the other next week.

Mickelson-2Luke Mickelson’s life changed back in 2012 when he was asked by his church to build a bed for a little girl who had none.  It was Christmas time, a cold and blustery winter in Twin Falls, Idaho where a little girl was sleeping on the floor on naught but a pile of clothes.

“This little girl had a nest of clothes, it looked like a little bird’s nest. And that’s what she slept on, that’s what her bed was. When we delivered the bed, she hugged it and just couldn’t let go. It was such an eye-opener to me. I sat there in silence thinking, ‘Is that really what’s going on?’ I had no clue about what the need was. There’s kids next door whose parents are struggling just to put food on the table, clothes on their back, a roof over their head. A bed was just a luxury. “

Using his daughter’s bunk bed as a template, Mickelson started buying wood and supplies to build beds with his own money. He recruited friends and family members to help around the holidays.  As word spread, interest and involvement from his and other communities surged — along with Mickelson’s bunk bed output.

Mickelson-3That first year, Luke and his team of volunteers built 11 bunk beds in his garage, and the next year it was 15. As their project became known around the community, the demand rose and before long, Luke had a dilemma … he had a lucrative job, with a six-figure income, but building beds was becoming more and more time-consuming.  What to do?  Luke did what few would likely have done … he quit his job to make beds!  He took a significantly lesser-paying part-time job to support his family and turned his attention toward the needs of his community.SHP-2Mickelson set up a non-profit called Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) and their motto is “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town”.  With the help of volunteers and donations for materials, SHP in Twin Falls built and delivered 612 beds to children in 2017.

But the organization is no longer just in Twin Falls, Idaho. Mickelson began a training center where people interested in starting a chapter in their own community can come and learn how to make beds and how to organize their own chapter.  In February, Mickelson and SHP were featured in a Facebook video feature titled Returning the Favor and the response was so overwhelming that they increased their chapters from 14 in February to 100 today.  And per their website, they have more than 900 pending requests for new chapters.  This is an idea that is taking off like wildfire, and for such a good cause. mapIn September 2017, a storage unit used by SHP to store materials, mattresses, etc., was burglarized and over $2,000 worth of materials stolen.  From the Idaho State Journal …

CHUBBUCK — A local charity wants those who burglarized the storage unit that contained several mattresses and bedding supplies to know that their actions have kept eight children sleeping on the floor at night.

“It’s very heart-wrenching,” said Luke Mickelson, the founder of the non-profit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, or SHP, which builds and donates bunk beds to children and families who don’t have anywhere to sleep. “Anytime you have something stolen you feel very stripped. But in this case, when you think about it, those people just robbed eight children of a place to sleep.”

First reported to the Chubbuck Police Department on Sept. 1, Mickelson said the thieves stole eight Malouf Lucid twin-size mattresses, along with several boxes of sheets, pillows, pillowcases and custom handmade quilts from a storage unit located in Chubbuck.

Mickelson continued, “If someone is so desperate they have to steal bedding, I hope they were in dire need and they can put it to good use because the quilts were really priceless and were donated from these awesome elderly ladies that put a lot of time into making them. How do you put a price to their time?”

In June, Luke Mickelson and SHP were featured on CNN Heroes. From the SHP website:

We have grown a lot in just the last year. As you can imagine, we are still working out all our processes and bugs. We are currently a 100% volunteer board and staff. No one currently receives a dime from any of the donations.  

Where we didn’t expect such a torrent was in requests to start a new chapter. It was such a flood of requests to start up that we had to better define our processes. As of the writing of this post, we have have a total of 521 requests to start new chapters in 47 states, in 4 provinces of Canada, 1 in the Philippines, 1 in Kenya and 1 in Mexico.

Perhaps the most important thing we can give to others is our time.  Luke Mickelson gave up a lucrative job and countless hours of his time to do something for children.  He and his team of volunteers from coast-to-coast are bringing smiles to kids’ faces every day.  People like this, my friends, are the ‘real’ people in this world, the ones that restore our faith in humanity.

Good People Doing Good Things — Florence Phillips

Good people.  They are not hard to find.  They come from all walks of life, and their contributions to the world are many and diverse.  As we have seen since I started this feature in February 2017, some contribute large amounts of money to worthy causes, others just do small things that may go unnoticed.  They are young, old, every ethnicity, race, gender and religion.  The common bond they share is that they care about people.  While giving money to good causes is certainly admirable, I always enjoy highlighting those who give of themselves — their time and energy.

Today I have the honour of introducing you to one great lady, Ms. Florence Phillips.  She was born in New York in 1931, shortly after her Jewish parents came to this country from Europe prior to the Holocaust.  Young people are most always able to learn a second or even third language much more easily than adults, and Florence was no exception.  Her parents struggled to learn English, and for most of her childhood, Florence served as their interpreter.

“I did all the translations for them. I saw how they struggled being new to a country and not knowing the language.”

For most of her life, Phillips worked various desk jobs. Then, in her late-50s, she enlisted in the Peace Corps. She served three tours—in Kenya, Guatemala and Jamaica—working on community-building projects and teaching English.  When she returned to the U.S. after her last tour, as she said in one of her videos, she found she had “nothing to do”.

“It came to me that I didn’t have to leave the US or my hometown to help. I could do here what I did overseas.”

She volunteered with AmeriCorps, a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.”  She moved around the country, eventually settling in Carson City, Nevada, where immigrants comprise some 22% of the population.

Florence-Phillips-4She started out by contacting some of the immigrants, and one woman asked her to come for a visit.  When she arrived, she found five people, three of whom spoke no English, all eager to learn.  As she worked with this family, teaching them to speak the language, word spread and before long she was getting dozens of calls.Florence-Phillips.jpgNow, Florence is an energetic woman, but even so, it soon became more than one woman could handle. And thus, her ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada was born.  The organization is a nonprofit that provides free ESL (English as a Second Language), citizenship, GED and computer classes and relies strictly on volunteers.  Started in 2004, they have thus far helped more than 5,000 people become more proficient in English.

Recently, Ms. Phillips was interviewed by CNN’s Laura Klairmont … let’s listen in, shall we?

Laura Klairmont: What are some of the barriers that get in the way of immigrants accessing English classes?

Florence Phillips: It was amazing to see how many immigrants there were that wanted to learn English. I got calls from all over Nevada. Many of these immigrants could not attend ESL classes because the schools and other organizations have a set schedule, and their times were not convenient for the student who works three jobs. So, my program teaches morning, noon, night, weekends, holidays. We provide these services at the times and days that the student is available and wherever the student is or can be. My program is very flexible.

We teach English on all levels to immigrants and refugees in Northern Nevada who want to learn. There is no other program like this in the state. We give the students personal attention; I match them with a tutor. We teach at no cost to the student.

There are people who were living in rural counties and in other counties where they did not have transportation if there was a class available for them to go to. If they lack transportation, just had a baby, are sick or disabled, we will tutor in their own homes or the tutor’s home.

Klairmont: Your program also provides free classes that help people prepare for their citizenship test.

Phillips: It is a very difficult test. A lot of Americans say they could not pass. These people have to know the answers to questions about the branches of government, how many senators there are, etc. It’s a lot of history, a lot of civics, a lot about our government. They have to know how to write, how to read. They have to know how to converse in English with the interviewer. We do all of that for them. We have a mock interview at the end of the class so that they know what to expect when they go for their exam. It takes a commitment of coming to a 12-week class. It takes a lot of memorization.

To apply for citizenship today, it costs more than $700. Many of our students cannot afford to apply. So, we help to raise money to help these students apply.

Whether they’re working two, three jobs, they have to sit down and study every single day, and they make that commitment because it is their desire to become an American. My students inspire me because of their dedication, their commitment, their motivation to learn.

Klairmont: How has your work affected the lives of your students?

Phillips: I have students that were promoted to be supervisor. I get students who call me and say, “I was able to talk with the teacher about my child.” And I’m being told by the students that they went to the market and the clerk understood them. Those are the rewards I get as they progress.

My students love this country. They are very proud about being here, learning English, learning our culture. I see the pride when they say, “I am an American.”

Florence-Phillips-2.jpgIn this day, when fear of immigrants is being manufactured by politicians, isn’t it refreshing to see people who are actually trying to help immigrants assimilate and become contributing members of our society, realizing that they have so much to offer.  My hat is off to Ms. Florence Phillips, who at age 87 has more energy than I do at 67!


Good People Doing Good Things — Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong

Amidst all the chaos we are confronted with every day, it is a breath of fresh air to meet people who rise above the detritus to make a genuine contribution to people in need.  Today I would like to introduce you to one such man, Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong of Lima, Peru.Ten years ago, Dr. Pun-Chong was completing his medical training in several hospitals in Lima.  Day after day, he noticed families sleeping on the floors. Many of them, he learned, had come from faraway villages, with little or no money, to get medical treatment for their children. Navigating the country’s difficult terrain — which spans the Andes Mountains to the Amazon — often means traversing unpaved roads and can make for a dangerous trip. Far from home and loved ones, and unable to pay for a place to stay in Lima, many families found themselves homeless while fighting for their children’s lives.

“The journey, it’s very difficult. People have to cross the mountains or take a boat to cross the river. It can take many days. Just imagine having this trip with a kid with cancer. I couldn’t get the picture of the families sleeping on the floor out of my mind. So, I decided to do something for them.”

What the good doctor did was start a non-profit, Inspira, an organization that has provided free housing, meals and overall support for sick children and their families while they undergo treatment. The organization has helped more than 900 families who’ve come from all over Peru.

From the Inspira website

“The Inspira Shelter is the materialization of a dream that began in April 2008. Its main goal was to get a house that serves as a shelter for children with cancer in the province and to offer them the opportunity to receive treatment and the possibility of a life expectancy.

In June 2011 the shelter received its first child. From there, the hostel – now called Inspira – has become a true oasis amid so much adversity.

As of July of 2017, the shelter has received around 900 families; their beds have been occupied more than 50 thousand times; It has served more than 250 thousand servings of healthy food. Currently, it also supports the arrival of any child with treatment associated with Down syndrome, burns and cerebral palsy.

Inspira becomes a light among so much adversity. The main objective of the shelter is to promote the reduction of the mortality of children.”

There is a short (3:04) video that introduces Dr. Pun-Chong far better than I could.  I cannot embed the video, but you can view it here.Recently Dr. Pun-Chong was interviewed by CNN for their Heroes feature:

CNN: What are some of the obstacles facing these families?

Ricardo Pun-Chong: We have people who come from the Amazon, travel on a boat and from there take a bus. And you’re with a sick child, with a fever. Once they reach the city, they don’t have any resources. Sometimes they don’t even speak Spanish; they speak Quechua, Aymara or other dialects.

For leukemia, the most frequent cancer in kids, the first treatment is about six months. But to stay here is too expensive. Sometimes families, they have to sell everything they have. They feel helpless. They feel really alone. They either have to make it work and stay, or they make the difficult trip back home without their children receiving full treatment.

CNN: What kind of environment have you created at the shelter?

Pun-Chong: The shelter is a very special place. We not only wanted people to have a place to sleep and food to eat, we also wanted to create a space to help the kids be cured. It’s a place with a lot of love.

I don’t want it to feel like a house, I want it to feel like a home. In the shelter we don’t have TV because I prefer to talk to the kids and teach them how to create things. I want them to use their imagination.

The families can stay in our shelter as long as they need, and I want them to know they are not alone, there are a lot of people that are with them.

CNN: What is the unique approach you take with the children?

Pun-Chong: Here we live the day-to-day, but we don’t talk about tumors and surgeries and cancer. When I go to the shelter, I leave my stethoscope at home. I come in here as Ricardo, not as a doctor. I want each and every one of them to feel special. I try to lift the spirits of these kids who probably have just undergone surgery. I play and have fun with them and make sure that during this hard time, these kids get to just act like kids.

We are doing everything we can to connect and engage with them. We listen to stories, color, paint, play in the park, ride bicycles. We try to give these kids special things and special experiences. I try to make them laugh, to enjoy themselves. I want these kids to play, to learn, to share. I want to help them to be the happiest they can be.

What a wonderful thing Dr. Pun-Chong has done for the people of Peru, don’t you think?  It is people like him, people who care more about their fellow human beings than their bank account, that renew our faith in human nature.  Thank you, Dr. Pun-Chong!