Generally, to have hope is an important human trait that reminds us that circumstances will change for the better. As human beings, hope is mentally engrained in us to help make present difficulties much easier to bear (Source: Hope Grows). Since hope is linked to our past, present and future selves, to lose hope in the early stages of a child’s life is a very dangerous problem. According to the World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) blog article, The Effects of Early Neglect: Addressing the Emotional Needs of Abandoned Children, the consequences of neglect in a child’s future could cause potential harm to the physical and emotional well-being of the neglected child as they grow older.
Over the past few years, one non-profit organization in particular, Paper Bridges, has been working diligently to provide hope for children in international orphanages by writing letters and sending small gifts to kids to remind them that there are people out there in the world that care about them. WFCF recently had the pleasure of interviewing the Paper Bridges' Outreach Director, Yichi Zhang about the tremendous work that this U.S.-based non-profit organization is doing.
What is the name of your organization?
Paper Bridges Corp
Who founded the organization and how did it come about?
Paper Bridges was started two years ago by two sophomores, Rebecca Huang and Emily Yuan, in the IB program at Richard Montgomery High School. During a trip to a rural area in China with a large orphan population, it was heartbreaking to see young students struggle and fall behind both socially and academically without the support and love of parents. With hard work and a lot of research, we began brainstorming ideas to help orphans and to reach a broad audience. After meeting with several community groups and conducting a few fundraisers, we were able to raise enough money to successfully establish Paper Bridges as a non-profit organization and sent out our first batch of letters to children in China, Myanmar, and Guatemala.
What is the mission and purpose of your organization?
We strive to spread love and encouragement to orphans all around the world by helping connect caring individuals with vulnerable children.
When did the organization start and where is it located?
Paper Bridges was started 2 years ago in 2017 and is based in Maryland.
Can anyone write letters to the disadvantaged children?
The Paper Bridges letter writing program is open to anyone who is interested in writing letters and making an impact on orphans. There is no language requirement, as the letters will be sent to orphans all around the world, many of whom speak foreign languages such as Spanish, French, or Chinese. The orphanages we send letters to also have translators on hand that can help translate letters in English into their native language. We have received letters from schools, camps, churches, senior homes, and community groups, as well as from students all over the world, including the U.S., Europe, and Asia. People can also visit our website and write a letter there. We hand-write the ones we receive and send them out with the rest.
When the letters are mailed internationally, where do they go?
We are constantly contacting orphanages all around the world and have sent letters to 12 different countries so far, including Guatemala, Zambia, South Africa, India, and Myanmar. If anyone has a specific orphanage that they would like us to work with, we would be happy to contact them and arrange for letters and care packages to be sent out.
What are some of the responses that you have gotten back from the children who receive the letters?
The responses from the children are absolutely heartwarming. The letters we receive from orphans are full of love and gratitude and help us understand the full impact of the letters we send. In most of the letters, the kids introduce themselves, writing about their favorite food and hobbies and sharing about what makes their lives special. Some of the letters also ask us to visit them when we have a chance, which we hope to do once we have the funds to travel and visit the orphans.
Can you please explain more about the new program that you will be implementing in June?
A major problem that some orphans face is getting an adequate education. Education will help kids become successful in whatever they choose to do in the future and opens doors of opportunity that might have been closed to them before. Orphanages are often busy thinking about the absolute necessities such as providing food and clothing, so we want to help caretakers support kids by providing them with means and tools for learning. Things like pens and notebooks, that we may take for granted, are not always readily available to orphanages. We decided to team up with a local charity club called the Difference Makers to launch a program that sends school supplies to orphanages who are in need. So far we already have an orphanage in Thailand interested in our program, and we expect many more orphanages to be interested.
How does it feel to know that you are helping to bring hope and joy to disadvantaged children?
Being able to help children who have not grown up with the advantages we have, gives us perspective on the problems that we face and also reminds us of the unfailing ability for children to remain strong in the face of immense difficulty. Although a single letter may not seem like a life-changing event, every small reminder of love in the world has an impact. The onus is on us to help make that impact one step at a time. All the work we do is worth it when we see the genuine smiles on the faces of children we’ve worked with. The world is such a big place, and just being able to make one person happier feels like a great privilege.
Unexpectedly, the orphans that the letters are being sent to aren’t the only people benefiting from the program. The individuals writing the letters often express how wonderful an experience and opportunity it is for them to reach disadvantaged children, and a director of a senior home informed us of how happy being able to impact a young child’s life made some of their residents. Lastly, we love the overwhelming support we have been able to get from our community. School associations such as the PTA and counseling offices are very receptive to our campaign and are eager to incorporate it into their agendas. Although the news may often lead us to believe that the world can be a cruel place, the incredible waves of support from strangers with a desire to help orphans across the world is a reminder otherwise.
What are some of your challenging moments that you had to overcome while working with the organization?
As students, our team had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to make this letter writing program a success. Initially, we were all doubtful of the support we would receive, and had trouble finding enough people to write letters. We didn’t want to get underestimated or overlooked because of our age and worked hard to make our organization legitimate and prove our ambitions and dreams were realistic. There were also so many orphans that wanted letters at first that we had to photocopy letters that were sent to different orphanages so that we could have enough. However, as our organization grew, we started to develop more and more connections through various meetings and events, allowing us to begin meeting the high demand for these letters. Another challenge that we have faced, and are still in the process of tackling, is finances. International postage is extremely expensive and sending anything more than an envelope of letters (such as small gifts for the children) costs quite a lot.
What has been the most successful or memorable experience for the organization thus far?
During a fundraising event, one woman stopped at our booth and began to talk with us about our organization and our mission. She demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm for our goals and before long revealed that she herself had adopted a child from China. She explained that her child suffered bullying because of her unusual circumstances and the way that she looked, but that she loved her daughter unconditionally and would support her through anything. She told us that her daughter would have loved to receive one of these letters and that the work we are doing can save children from falling prey to thoughts of worthlessness or loneliness. It is an array of individual moments such as these that remind us how powerful a single letter can be and give us the motivation and hope to continue our passion of helping others despite the obstacles.
Where can someone go if they are looking for ways to help or to get involved with your organization?
If anyone is interested in helping us or has ideas to submit, please visit our website: https://www.paper-bridges.org
Stay updated on our Instagram: @paper.bridges
If you wish to contact us, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope Grows. (2018, December 22). Why Is Hope So Important? | Understand The Deeper Meaning Of Hope. Retrieved from https://hopegrows.net/news/why-is-hope-so-important
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