About Rahim Lalji

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Youth may be considered suspect by many, especially in light of recent events involving bullying, intimidation, and other acts of violence. However, I would like to share a “good news” story of that highlighted for me, as executive director of Western Society for Children, the power of kindness – and the goodness in many young people.

Local youth helped our Westminster-based charity give a family a much-needed gift this fall, and the many young people involved have created a ripple effect of goodness. It began with a family struggling with disability concerns. Western Society for Children helped this family over the past five years with wheelchair equipment and other resources –none of which are available through government programs. Unfortunately, the challenges of autism combined with muscular dystrophy progressed to rob young limbs of their strength, and end a special life much too soon.

I write this letter to focus on youth because our charity was astounded this year by the compassion and social conscience of our summer students and their friends.  They sympathized with the plight of our families, and helped us in our efforts to overcome the persistent – yet often unacknowledged – barriers to everyday life. In reality, 80% of disability resources are not available through ministries for children or health. WS for Children receives no ministry funding for equipment urgently needed by individual children. Our limited staff and dedicated volunteers are crucial in addressing this enormous unmet need. Kindness is definitely the key.

This summer, we raffled a mountain bike to raise money towards the $2,500 needed to provide a specialized tricycle. This individualized tricycle allows a child with challenges to get out of their wheelchair, and offers the typical experience of recreation. As the first ripple of kindness, the summer students were part of many community booths to create much-needed awareness, and ticket sales. The most successful strategy was a highly enjoyable fundraiser at Sonar night club in Vancouver, organized and promoted by students – the second ripple.

The third ripple of kindness was caused when the winner – another young person – donated the prize bicycle back to Western Society for Children. With deep gratitude, we were able to provide the bicycle to another child. As this mountain bike was not a specialized tricycle, our charity sought a recipient that had typical ability. In families at WS for Children, the siblings of children with disabilities may have limited opportunity for recreation. The family’s budget is over-burdened with the extra costs of disability resources. Costs for these families are eight times that of families with children of typical abilities. We searched our membership throughout BC for a sibling in need of a bike.

The fourth ripple of kindness occurred when we were able to provide the bike, as a small measure of caring in a dark time, to the grieving family of the young boy who had succumbed to his challenges, as mentioned earlier. We will remember their heartfelt appreciation for many years.

The fifth ripple is the creation of an ongoing, community-based MD equipment bursary at WS for Children, in memory of Rahim Lalji, for the benefit of other children affected by this progressive disorder.  The uphill battle of charitable endeavour with its extremely limited resources is worth all the effort when a legacy such as this becomes possible. Potential is about hope. Western Society is an agency of hope that enhances the lives of children with disabilities and their families. If you’d like more information on ways to make a difference, I would be pleased to speak with you.

Especially at this time of year, dear reader, please give thought to the potential power of kindness. Tell the young people in your life that you think they are just awesome. Please model, for them, the acts of kindness that demonstrate true caring about people in your community. The future for all of us will be brighter because of it.

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