I originally wrote the text below on July 16th......
Today our speaker at Rotary was the young man who started a foundation whose purpose is to give orphan children a chance in life and through rotary exchange programs. Our club, it turned out, was the very first club to host one of the orphan children from Taiwan. Very first. Kobe came to us in September. As is the general format, the student has three separate host families, each for 3 months. For Kobe, two of the families fell through, and he ended up staying with one family most of the time. The Wilcox family. Steve Wilcox was a Rotarian of our club and was very patient with Kobe. Kobe’s English was not very good. But he sure progressed. He was also shy, and Steve did a great job of encouraging him to speak up.. share what he did on his weekend trips to get to know the area, the state, etc.
For some reason, I could understand Kobe when he spoke (some of the others could not). And, I really liked him. I thought he was a cute, young, stumbling kid who was just a nerdy kid like my own son. One who doesn’t run with the pack, but sits back and soaks it all in, and has such a great future ahead of himself. Sounds like my Jake, right?
I did not know Kobe was an Orphan. I remember hearing he had a ‘sponsor’ that paid his way to America, but I did not know his circumstances in life. We found out that when it was time for Kobe to go, on the drive to the airport, he was very quiet and sad. Our Exchange Student chairman finally pried out of him what it was that was bothering him. His answer? He wished the Wilcox’s were his family.
My heart dropped when I found this out. I cannot imagine what Kobe's day to day life will be like when he returns to Taiwan. I only hope that he sees that he has a future and can do anything he chooses to do. That he can rise above it. And that he does have a family, many families in La Grande, because as it turns out, a few of us fell in love with that quiet, gangly, awkward boy from Taiwan.
However, this story is not about Kobe. It is about his sponsor.
What Harris came to us today to speak. Unfortunately, he was not on our 'docket', and we almost turned him away, due to miscommunication between the host and the bulletin chair at that time. Thank goodness for gracious Rotarians and the ability to be flexible. Turns out, Wyatt traveled all the way from Virginia (instead of a local location which could easily be rescheduled) and was traveling to see his family in Oregon and along the way visiting with as many Rotary clubs as possible to share his mission and story.
Turns out, Wyatt, was born in China. He was abandoned as a baby and left outside a factory in the month of March. And, Wyatt has one deformed arm. Wyatt ended up in an orphanage and was adopted at the age of 3 by an American family. Due to his second chance, Wyatt had lots of opportunities and he ended up becoming a Rotary Exchange student in Taiwan while in high school and again when he attended UofO. When he went back to Taiwan on that 2nd exchange, he went to China for 2 weeks, and decided to find his biological family. He first landed at the orphanage were he started life, and saw that all the children were deformed. He realized this must be a reason he was abandoned. He also got to meet his caregiver. And he met all the other children that were also babies when he was there, yet, did not get adopted. Only he and 1 other child were adopted. He was lucky. He rec’d a lot of media attention when he shared his search - he told his story on radio and in print, yet his family did not come forward. He left China w/o his family. When he got back to Taiwan, a reporter contacted him to say his family came forward. He went back to meet them and told them he had two questions to ask, and if they were not asked he would not stay. He wanted to know why he was left, and if they ever thought about him (I think). He found out his family was very poor, his birth brother and sister did not finish grade school, only 7th and 2nd grade. He was the 2nd son and his family could not afford him. They tried to leave him once, and his mother went back to get him. But they could not afford to keep him, and they knew it. The second time they went to leave him, they watched from a distance to make sure someone found him. Someone did find him and took him to the orphanage. His dad found out which orphanage he was at, and visited him often, but did not tell the caregivers who he was.
So, as it turns out, Wyatt was loved. And thought of often.
Wyatt cried the most he ever cried in his life when he returned to China and met the children that were with him as a baby, and when he met his family. And he called his mom, in America, to tell her he wanted to do something to help other children, who did not have the chance he had.
His mom told him to write a book.
And, he said, like every good son he listened to his mother.
He wrote the book. And the proceeds from his first book are what started his foundation and financed our Kobe.
Amazing, isn't it? This story?
Of love. Of change. Of 2nd changes.
The most notable quote today from Wyatt? Give and take 2nd changes in your life. And, thank you for hosting Kobe.
I was really taken by this presentation. It touched me. And makes me think of the things I am doing and what 2nd chances I would like to give and take.
Here is a link to the foundation: You can also find a link to a story that Kobe wrote about this life.
Thanks for listening...