Cosette Backus

My family has been a supporter of OneSky for as long as I have been alive.  My grandmother is Chinese and was born in Shanghai.  My family’s commitment to support what was Half the Sky at the time now called OneSky began from a very personal experience for my grandmother who I call Pau Pau.  Pau Pau was about 9 years old when her little sister was born.  My grandmother already had three younger brothers and her father had taken a second wife who had given him two more sons.  My grandmother was so excited to have a sister.  She would run home from school to play with her.  After only 16 weeks, one day she came home to find that her baby sister was gone.  She learned that she had been given to an orphanage.  Supporting OneSky was a very symbolic way that my mother wanted to honor the memory of the aunt she never got to know.  Rather than give Mother’s Day presents, my mom always makes a donation in my grandmother’s name.

Fast forward to my junior year.  We learned that OneSky had a volunteer program for high school/college age students interested in going to Beijing to spend time in a medical care facility for orphans. ChunHui China Care Medical Center.  Given my interest in medicine and family connection to OneSky, I couldn’t think of a more perfect experience for myself.

The trip was only two weeks but probably one of the highlights of my life thus far.  My Mandarin was/is limited but enough to communicate with the staff and the small children we took care of during our stay.  We stayed in a very clean hotel and were taken care of by the most amazing chaperones.  They took such good care of us and frankly I felt like I was more on vacation then volunteering.

I was with 5 other volunteers.  Each day, after breakfast, we entered the center and made sure our clothing was clean so as not to increase the risk of infection for these sick children.

The staff were the most loving and caring ladies I’ve ever encountered.  Everyone was so kind.  The children were in different stages of their illnesses.  Some were waiting for surgery, some were recovering from their recent surgeries.  Our job was to engage and entertain them.  We played with them based upon their ability.  Everyday filled my heart with love, tenderness and a strong desire to figure out what I could do to make lives better for injured or sick children.  Some days, some of the children did not feel well enough to play and we would do our best to just hold them and try to lift their spirits.  This experience has stayed with me and fueled my desire to pursue medicine and join China Care Bruins. This was a huge draw for me when Michelle Vu told me about the club at UCLA.

I have always enjoyed working with organizations that support early childhood development in underrepresented or under-served communities.  I think having a mentor is really important for children, especially at the middle school and high school age level.  Children often feel more comfortable interacting with people around their own age and will be more open to forming a relationship with a peer mentor.  I’m excited to be a part of the UCLA China Care Bruins community and am looking forward to continuing to support the children of OneSky.

If anyone is interested in going, I definitely recommend and would love to return again myself for a longer period of time. — Cosette Backus

 

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