….but everybody can help somebody.
People keep telling me constantly “Cameron is such a lucky little to have this experience of travelling the world”. Yes he is, and I am lucky to be sharing it with him and getting to see the world through his eyes.
There are lots of things which I want him to experience and learn but perhaps one of the most important factors is how he as one little person can still have an important impact on the world. He already understands the importance of re-cycling and doing all he can to prevent the seas from getting polluted with plastics.
We wrapped all of our Christmas gifts in brown paper this year and made decorations out of pine cones, & when we were back home in January Cameron worked hard at making eco-bricks with as much ‘would be’ plastic rubbish as possible.
Saving plastics to make eco-bricks
I also want him to learn that children are not all as fortunate as himself. He has been lucky to have travelled to some far flung places since he was just a few months old and he has had the privilege of being privately educated too. He IS a lucky boy but he had also not witnessed much poverty in his life and although I can try and tell him about homeless children and kids living on the street, at his age I really don’t think it actually sinks in until they see it for themselves.
For Cameron this eye opening moment came during a visit to Cozumel in Mexico just after Christmas. Cozumel was one of the ports of call during our Caribbean cruise, but on returning to the ship we saw a little boy about the same age sitting as Cameron sitting barefoot at the side of the road begging. I hadn’t carried any cash ashore as we were on a pre-paid excursion and any other expense I generally put on my card. This meant that we had absolutely nothing to give this little boy and I felt awful.
Cameron of course had lots of questions:
“Why is he homeless?”
“Where are his Mummy & Daddy?”
and the one which melted my heart “Can we buy him and take him back to our house so that he won’t be homeless anymore?” IF ONLY it were that simple.
Later that evening when we were back in our cabin, I watched Cameron munching his way through a packet of Pringles and it was then that I had an idea. I said to Cam “when we get back home why don’t we fill some pringles tubes with things for the homeless children to take to the next place we visit and we could ask some of our friends to do the same” He thought this was a great idea and duly set about writing a list of the things which the children might like. When we got home without any prompting he started sorting through this toys and bringing me little things which he was happy to give away, small bears, crayons & pencils, cars and trains. To add to these we brought some small packets of sweets as well.
We also put a post up on facebook via our travel blog page and before we knew it not only friends but total strangers were offering to make up pringles tubes. Some of them were posted and delivered to us, others we drove around collecting from people. Cameron’s excitement and enthusiasm mounted, whilst I started to panic somewhat as to how I was going to transport all of these tubes along with 4 months of luggage across the globe?!!!!
In the end I just had to make the decision to take as many as I could in an empty cabin bag and leave some behind to take with us to Bali in July as we will in touching down back in the U.K. for a couple of weeks before flying on there.
Once packed I had to decided how to best distributor all the items. What I didn’t want to do was obviously jeopardise our own safety but also I didn’t want to endanger the safety of any child by being seen to give them something which others would want and try to take from them.
Hence I looked online and found a contact at the Lighthouse Childrens Welfare Home Association in Kuala Lumpar. The organisation describes themselves on their Facebook page as follows: “Lighthouse Children Welfare Home provides shelter for underprivileged children,physically & sexually abused & children from alcoholic & drug families.“
I made contact with a lovely man named Andrew Kit who volunteers there and he in turn passed me on to the homes full time caretaker Mrs Jacinta Steven and we arranged a time to visit the home.
On finding out that there were around 70 children housed by them, I decided to take everything out of the pringles tubes as it didn’t seem fair to turn up with tubes for some and not for others. Cameron & I sorted things out into batches of colouring items, sweets, toys etc, we then went across to the Mall which is opposite our hotel here in K.L and brought lots more mini packets of Haribos so there was enough to go round, some books and two big boxes of lego which all of the children would be able to play with.
When we arrived at the Lighthouse Home yesterday the first thing Cameron noticed was that none of the children were wearing shoes and told me we should have collected shoes for them as well. And yes if we had know I could have at least packed a few pairs that Cam has outgrown and I am sure other parents could have contributed as well. There are LOTS of things these children need, most of all a safe haven which is what Mrs Steven and her team try so hard to give them. They do receive donations from locals in terms of food and drink but it still costs on average £200 a month to keep each child there in the most basic but safe accommodation. Times that by 70 and that is a lot of money they have to try to raise each month and they are desperate for funding.
Mrs Steven and her husband are totally dedicated to running the Lighthouse, putting their heart and soul into it 7 days a week and working around the clock. You can read more of their story in this editorial from 2014: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/community/2014/06/05/home-in-need-of-funds-couple-barely-coping-with-dwindling-donations-and-increasing-costs/
I am not sure if there was some mis-understanding as Mrs Steven seemed to also think we had come to do some activity with the children for the day. I so much wish this had mentioned this to me before as I could have easily organised something to do if I had known advance and both Cameron and I would have both loved to have spent the whole day and the Lighthouse volunteering with other things if we had know this was wanted. I am told that the children love to make things to sell in order to raise money for the home. I will certainly remember this if we return either to the Lighthouse or to a similar organisation in the near future.
We were given permission to photograph the children but I didn’t feel comfortable about doing so simply for social media. Below is a photo of Cameron with Mrs Steven outside of the Lighthouse Children’s Home though:
I know our small gifts will be appreciated by the children, however both Cameron and I walked away wishing we could do and give more. It was also a humbling lesson to us both to see all of these children living with so little (I should add that they all appeared happy as well).
I have spent the last 24hrs feeling guilty that we couldn’t do more, but at least we have done something.