A #DisruptAging Story from Chinese American Barbara Lee Shimoda, Country Director of Give Children A Choice, on championing children in need.

“If anything, the best thing I ever did for these children in Laos is that I made them look worthy in the eyes of their family. Here they have superstitions. They believe that once someone is disabled or hurt, they’re bad luck. No one should touch them, or come near them. Just leave them to die. But they’re innocent children. I’m thinking of one child and her name is Yer Vue.

“We were walking through a village, and I saw this little animal crawling around in the dark inside a hut. I looked in and had no idea what it was. It was so muddy. Then I brushed away what I thought was its fur, and there were these cute little twinkle eyes looking at me. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what the heck?’ I asked the villagers, ‘Whose child is this?’ They said that the parents just leave her alone. I picked her up, and I think I was probably the first person to ever do that.

“Everyone kept telling me, ‘Don’t touch her! She’s bad luck!’ I was really shocked and angry. She had cerebral palsy. Her legs were all twisted and she couldn’t walk. As a child, I didn’t have cerebral palsy, but I was horribly pigeon-toed and a bit spastic, so I felt like I really needed to champion her.

“My husband and I took her to the rehab center in town, fitted her with orthotics, and brought her to physical therapy sessions, put her on a regimen of eating well. I spoiled her a bit by buying her Barbie dolls, beautiful clothes and toys. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I wanted to send the message that this child is worthy of everything and anything. Her own mother would not even touch her. So I just hugged her even more and bathed her. There, underneath all the dirt, was this beautiful little girl. When I cleaned her up, I think her mom started to get jealous.

“Her father must have loved her very much, secretly. When he saw that we were so into her, he jumped to the fray. We gave him money and he took her to rehab every day. Eventually, she started to walk.

“Two years ago, we came back to get her fitted for new orthotics. Her mom came and she was totally different. She was a mom. She carried her daughter everywhere. She cleaned her, she hugged her, she kissed her, and she did everything for her daughter. As for me? I was so happy, I was over the moon.”

Barbara Lee Shimoda
Country Director, Give Children A Choice
Vientiane, Laos
Chinese American

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Sherina Ong