A World Away: A Partnership with World Pediatric Project
Imagine: You are very sick….a young child in a new country, without your parents. You may or may not speak the language. You are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from home. You have left everything you know behind. You have come here for one reason: to get well.
It is a leap of faith. Only one thing is for certain — things will never be the same. Experiences change you; the incredible kindness of strangers changes you. Your world might be filled with fear, or hope and dreams — fear because risks are many and great, and hope because things could be so different, if only you get the medical help you need. In the end, though, your fear does not matter. The cost of not trying is greater than the risk. There is no question in your mind: you will go to a place you do not know for help you desperately need. Hopefully, you will come home whole and healed, but regardless you will come home changed.
This is the story of Brayden, and it is the story of many of the children who come to the United States for medical help through the Richmond-based nonprofit organization World Pediatric Project. The children come to medical facilities across the U.S. to have surgery to fix medical problems that their own countries’ medical infrastructure cannot support. Although Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s role is small compared to the work that World Pediatric Project does, we are honored to have the opportunity to support their work. We feel grateful to have the chance to share Brayden’s story and how his life will be substantially different, thanks to our friends at World Pediatric Project. We’re also grateful for the chance to show some good in the world and highlight the role of nature in healing. Spending a few hours with Brayden and Mavis was one of the highlights of my year as well as having the opportunity to peek into the window of an organization that creates magic with so many loving hands pulling together thanks to a remarkable international nonprofit, based right here in Richmond, VA. It’s the work of doctors, volunteers, hospitals and organizations such as this that makes our time on Earth meaningful and our journey as humans worthwhile. What a gift to be able to show how love transforms lives — our lives and theirs.
Brayden, from Belize, traveled to Richmond with his grandmother, Mavis, to have surgery earlier this year at VCU Health. On the outside Brayden is just like any other 8-year-old boy. You can’t tell that he’s sick or in need of medical help by looking at him. Like most 8-year-old boys, the things he likes most are video games: Minecraft, Pokemon Go, and Turbo Prop Flight Simulator in particular. But he also likes flowers — especially black orchids (Prosthechea cochleata), which are the National Flower of Belize, and anything that reminds him of home. A monarch flits by behind the glass in the butterflies exhibit and he says, “We have those in Belize too!”
He loves movies and TV (his most favorite are Peter Rabbit, Sherlock Holmes, and Black Panther) and the Children’s Museum of Richmond. While staying at Ronald McDonald House he explains that it’s easy to make friends through common interests like video games, “If I play and someone else comes, I make friends like that.” But just as significant are the times he spends outdoors in nature and the memories he makes while touring Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with his grandmother and his escort, Sally Kutz, a volunteer for both Lewis Ginter and World Pediatric Project.
We asked Brayden what he’ll remember most from this visit. He says, “The flowers because you have pretty flowers — and words like aerodynamic.” …..Ah, those video games again!
I have a feeling he might remember this moment too:
We are grateful to be one of several local attractions who partner with our friends at World Pediatric Project who do such important work. Harper Lorencki, Teams Manager for World Pediatric Project, explains “Our vision is that every child, regardless of geography, will have access to quality critical care in order to live a full and productive life. While children are in Richmond undergoing treatment, non-medical volunteers like Kutz support them and give them the opportunity to get out into the community, including visits to Richmond staples like Lewis Ginter. These outings help the kids to forget about their medical treatment for a time and just be kids!”