Grade 12 student Kevin Lee is getting ready for a cross-China trip at the end of the month with 24 other like-minded youth.
The Langley resident and student of Walnut Grove Secondary became a member, and took on the leadership roll, of the Langley branch of SDC Blue Ribbon Foundation International in September of 2013.
SDC stands for social diversity for children and the youth-run organization, a registered non-profit, focuses on fundraising and activities to create a cohesive and inclusive community locally and globally.
“I’ve always been interested in humanitarian causes,” said Lee about why he joined the organization, “from volunteering at our school clubs and leading some of them, to working for a BC Children’s Hospital fundraiser. Joining the SDC Blue Ribbon Foundation was one of those steps I took to help out in the community.”‘ When the founder of SDC International, David Wang, went to China and experienced the lack of support, services, and compassion for children with disabilities in the country, he came back to Canada and founded the organization. It was this primary trip that inspired Lee’s upcoming trip set for July 27 to Aug. 15.
“He [David Wang, on his trip] got to see how the kids were treated there and how only a few people would stand up for them. Those few people made all the difference though,” Lee said.
“Now that the organization has been running for four years, with programs and events all over North America, we all want to start making global change as well. We are visiting China first as they are really making an effort to improve their social welfare policies for children with disabilities.”
The plans for the trip are twofold: youth empowerment and disability justice.
“We will be negotiating with the Chinese government to improve the social welfare policies currently in place for children with disabilities,” Lee noted. “We hope to implement more youth-empowering alternative therapy or social programs for children with disabilities. In addition, we will be volunteering at autism rehabilitation centres and schools for children with disabilities and visiting international schools to speak with high school students about youth leadership and advocacy.”
Initially, Lee’s parents thought his involvement in the trip was “unnecessary” due to his ongoing help with disabled children in Canada, but he explained, “I want to see how people with disabilities are treated differently across different cultures and I want to help take the next step towards reforming the faults in different cultures in mistreating the disabled.”
While there are some programs in China for children with disabilities, Lee noted that there aren’t enough.
“Most of them are not generally customized to the child,” he said. “We hope to change that and make social programs and events more accessible for everyone by sharing the experience we’ve gained in North America.”
When asked what he hopes to gain from embarking on the trip, Lee responded, “I hope to gain new friends, both from North America and from China. SDC’s dream is to eradicate the stigma on disabilities by creating friendships between people with disabilities and people without.
“I hope to make a positive impact by becoming friends with everyone – people of any ability.”