”Why is life so unfair??” muttered a youth who grew up in a group home. How would you react to this mumbling?
“Well, you can’t choose your parents.”
“The foster homes feed you (using tax money), don’t they?”
“In this age and era, if you work hard, you can achieve anything!”
“Everyone was poor back in the day. There are still children starving overseas. You are blessed compared to them.”
Many people may react in the above ways. I have no intent of negating these reactions/views as everyone has different values and life experiences. Before I started Bridge for Smile (B4S) I used to think this way as well. I thought what happens to a person is his/her own responsibility.
However, after hearing from many foster youths about their experiences of not being treated with love and respect by their parents, about how their feelings had been trampled on time and again by the adults around them, I felt ashamed. I had been judging them based on my superficial “common sense.” This is why I want as many people as possible to hear the voices of these youths directly.
Going back to where I first started, a fair chunk of the frustration experienced by youths aging out of foster care stems from the fact that they do not have “parents to rely on.” However, when one thinks about it, perhaps there is also a problem with a society that tries to categorize this issue as a “parental problem” instead of a societal one.
“Homes” are not the only places where children can grow. The neighborhood they live in, their encounters with others, the daily experiences they go through; these all provide opportunities for growth. However, access to these growth opportunities is largely defined by a parent’s values and economic power. “Children cannot choose their parents. You just had bad luck. Too bad.” This is the unfair logic adults are forcing on children aging out of foster cre when we place all responsibilities on them. In order to change this current structure, we need a “society that raises its children together.” Society must provide each child rich and equal opportunities for growth regardless of which parent or home a child is born into.
This is why Bridge for Smile started Coyell. Coyell is a public awareness raising campaign consisting of speeches by youths who grew up without depending on their parents and presentations about what we as a society can do to solve the problems. The aim of Coyell is to increase the number of players involved in solving problems surrounding children.
We need a system that can save abused and hurt children as swiftly as possible. We also need a system that can heal their wounds. However, there are few people that understand these needs and are capable of providing care. The people that help do not have to be experts in social welfare or psychology. If society can decrease the number of people who demand “self-responsibility” of these youths based on superficial common sense, that alone decreases the number of people who hurt these youths through misunderstanding
It is difficult to start up a nonprofit and it is also difficult to maintain one (in earnest!) The same goes for volunteer activities and donations. Not everyone can become a carer at a foster care home or become a foster family. Still, I want to think about what we CAN do.
With this thought in mind, we launched “Social Action Academy.” This is a program which asks business persons with high execution capabilities to help deepen our understanding about a social problem, search for a solution, and spread the word. In cooperation with Service Grant, we are trying to expand the breadth of our work. However, this was a program which hit the road running and we are thinking as we run.
“Zero” and “one” are completely different. There are definitely seeds that bear fruit because we decide to plant them. Please keep your eyes on and root for the social actions taking place!
Chief Executive Officer