Twenty-four-year-old Lori Chen (陳珞韶) has volunteered in Ethiopia and Haiti, and she shared her stories on Friday at a news conference hosted by the Garden of Hope Foundation as she encouraged other young people to join her.
“I like kids, so I like to help kids as much as I can,” Chen said. “Compared with going out and shopping, helping people makes me happier.”
Born in Taiwan, Chen moved to the US with her family when she was nine, and received a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago.
Having seen her mother — a volunteer with the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation — helping people in need, Chen came to believe that it was her responsibility to help others as well.
In college, Chen went to Ethiopia to serve as a volunteer at an orphanage for four months, she said, adding that it was a shocking experience to her, since it was the first time she had seen so many children suffering in horrible conditions.
“I realized that I couldn’t help all the suffering children, but I didn’t stop doing what I was doing,” Chen said. “I saw the imperfection in life, I’d like to do as much as possible to help.”
In 2010, when an earthquake devastated Haiti, Chen joined rescue efforts as a volunteer, going there four times over 18 months.
She said that in post-disaster Haiti, food was scarce, “children and adults alike had to fight for food, and many children ate as much food as they could when it was available, worried that they might have to wait for a long time before their next meal.”
Knowing that was not good for their health, Chen said that she had to stop children from taking too much food.
“Some kids would cry when they only had the ‘normal’ amount of food. It was very heart-breaking to see kids with tears all over their faces, but I knew I had to do what I had to do to help maintain their health,” she said. “After some time, the children got used to it, and I know that many of them are healthy and alive today, it really makes me happy to know.”
One of the most unforgettable experience in Haiti, she said, was seeing a girl dying in a hospital because of a lack of medical resources.
“I had to help to take care of a girl with a developmental handicap, since no one else around her wanted to take care of her,” she said. “One day, the girl was infected with cholera. I was very worried, but there were no doctors and no ambulance at the place where we were.”
“With help from the locals, we managed to send the girl to a hospital, but it took us more than an hour-and-a-half — but none of the nurses or doctors were willing to help — or even touch — the girl,” Chen said.
Eventually, Chen found foreign doctors who would take care of the girl, but she was already dead by the time the doctors arrived.
“I simply could not accept it, but she was lying there without breathing, and her body was already cold, but her little hand was still warm, because I held her hand along the way,” Chen said.