Update~Sunday, October 16th
Matthew’s fundraiser was held on Thursday, October 13th at St. George’s School, Vancouver. It was a lovely evening and the fundraiser was a big success. We have nearly reached the Matthew’s goal. Please consider donating now to help us reach it!
One can never truly predict what life has in store for them. One day can be the happiest day of your life and in a split second you are confronted with fighting the most significant battle you may ever face. This is the reality we live in and is something that I was quickly acquainted with entering my final year of high school at St. George’s.
I had just returned to school after playing in a hockey tournament over the summer months, when things quickly changed for me. On October 13, 2013 I was informed that I had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer affecting the body’s immune system. All of a sudden, my life was put on hold as the only focus was fighting this disease over the next eight months of my life. During this time I never truly understood the magnitude of influence this experience would have on my life. The importance of health and how much we take that for granted on a daily basis was something that truly struck me during these eight months.
Halfway through my treatment, I was approached with the opportunity to be granted a wish through Children’s Wish. This was a unique and intriguing opportunity, one that I did not take lightly. It was quite overwhelming when I first fully realized the vast possibilities associated with this wish. After several days of thought, I truly felt that I wanted this wish to be one that I could look back upon many years later. I wanted to make a wish that could stand as a constant reminder to not only myself, but to the greater community, about the importance of gratitude, hopefully sharing a small bit of what I learned throughout my experience. Thus, I came to the conclusion that I would like my wish to be a “giving wish”.
In March of 2013, several classmates and I had the opportunity to visit Project Somos in a southern Guatemalan community as part of a service-learning experience. Project Somos is an eco-sustainable alternative community for at-risk mothers and children in Guatemala. It exists, among many things, as a result of an ongoing recognition of rising poverty and poor access to education and medical care. The Project was an eye opening experience for me and left a major impression in my life. It was the first time I had experienced a world with true poverty and seen first hand the roadblocks to health and well-being, something very rarely seen within our culture.
The people in rural areas such as Chivarabal – where Project Somos is located – often don’t have the money to cover transportation to a medical clinic. If they do manage to go to a free clinic, they might not be able to afford the medication prescribed (even generic drugs are prohibitively expensive). There aren’t many systems in place for long term health conditions, and preventative care is completely lacking.
Realizing the limitations and the precarious feeling people find themselves in, the tragic loss of what we at home would consider basic simple care sparked an idea to construct a medical clinic on site. At the time, I was not fully aware of how this could be done, but when Children’s Wish came along, I knew exactly what to wish for. I wanted my wish to make a difference in this world and continue to help the people of Guatemala for many years to come, trying to parallel the philosophy of Project Somos in its recognition of the importance of sustainability. Nearing the end of my treatment, in partnership with Children’s wish, we were able to direct the initial funds for the medical clinic for Project Somos.
As you can imagine, the planning of a medical clinic and neighbourhood house on the Project Somos site has been challenging. We continue to fundraise to help raise the necessary money to make this wish a reality. In keeping with our momentum, we are planning an evening of celebration on October 13, 2016 at St. George’s School. We celebrate the continued progress and success of the project and we hope to make a difference in the lives of others that are less fortunate.
Life has a funny way of evolving. I never would have even thought I would be involved in a project like this so far from home. I feel we have an obligation as a global community to help each other and I know that many of you reading this feel the same way. Please help us by donating directly to the medical clinic project or by coming to our event to help make my wish come true.
What a great story and congrats on the trip and also for your improved health.
It is always a privilege for Canadians to travel overseas to learn this experience especially for young people. But what is also important (and what is missing in our education system) the struggle of many Canadians here in our country. As you stated “It was the first time I had experienced a world with true poverty and seen first hand the roadblocks to health and well-being, something very rarely seen within our culture”.
It is important for St. Georges students to know the plight of indigenous peoples in Canada who are shockingly in a similar or sometimes even worse conditions with poverty, no access to clean water, high suicide rates, no access to medicine and health services, education attainment is very low and of course – still ongoing racism and discrimination with a very sad history of colonization and abuse. So we do have something to compare somewhat these situations to what is happening in Guate. And imagine that Canada has an obligation via the Constitution to look after our indigenous peoples – no such protection I would assume for Guate citizens. I think this education for young Canadians is just as important as what we learn internationally.
Thank you for sharing your story and I hope you continue to support these villages and that your health concerns continue to improve so you can do more for communities all over the world.