100 Happy Children

20th November, 2016 – the Big Red Party Launch of Variety Sri Lanka arrived – along with 100 (initially) shy invitees; smart and amazing kids, wearing scarlet Variety tee-shirts and caps for, possibly, their first ever party!

Shyness dissipated once the party got going – delightful kids; beautiful, respectful, funny, giggling, frail, strong, timid, confident, bashful, huggable, captivating, sensitive, feisty, two sharing one wheelchair, many with hearing or sight impairment, those impacted by physical or psychological illness, others from economically disadvantaged families, while some had never known family – either orphaned or abandoned. These were, without exception, kids who needed an afternoon of fun and laughter – the freedom to experience childhood Variety style!

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Balloons, face/ hand painting, gyrating to music, catching light beams, cuddling a gigantic Mickey Mouse, pirate fighting with balloon swords, prize picture colouring, winning a prize raffle draw, interacting with new friends, blowing bubbles and wheelchair dancing led to the Grand Finale – the Magic Show!

One hundred kids fascinated and held spellbound at their first magic show is a sight to behold! They gasped; they laughed; they shouted; they applauded; they were puzzled; they joined in the trickery and they were mesmerised – they were living in happy moments – just being kids!

The party was over! The long line of children wearing their Variety kit and beaming smiles snaked towards the door. With a Variety goody-bag, Variety cup-cake and big red Variety balloons in hand – the phenomenal memories of the day will linger long.

Butterfly Program

This is not a story about one child. It is a story about 42 disadvantaged children whose lives have been changed by Variety – the Children’s Charity Hong Kong.

As a new tent with limited resources, we decided to focus our initial efforts on the Variety Butterfly Program, which provides early assessment and interim treatment of financially disadvantaged children and adolescents from financially disadvantaged families who do not have the means to seek medical or psychiatric services outside the public health system. To date, the Program has covered 42 children, including eight who received accelerated admission into a Government treatment program – and one whose suicide is believed to have been avoided by Variety’s intervention.

Children suspected to suffer from mental health problems currently have to wait more than a year for clinical assessment in the Government’s public clinics in Hong Kong. If they are diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorder or other mental health conditions, they have to wait for another 14-15 months on average for treatment at Hong Kong’s public clinics, and in many cases the waiting time for public psychiatric outpatient services can be as long as three years. Those years can be critical, and treatment often comes too late.

Variety HK has recruited a network of psychiatrists to provide early assessment and treatment to children and adolescents who are awaiting admission for public outpatient treatment services. We also work with other charities to provide counseling and coping skills for families and carers.

The program is currently funded through promotions by Café Deco Group, a leading restaurant group in Hong Kong. We are looking for additional sources of funding.

Variety of Indonesia

Variety – the Children’s Charity of Indonesia has two main programs in its early years of operation. Both programs involve disadvantaged children from orphanages and special needs homes in the greater Jakarta area. One program relates to providing affordable quality food and the other program relates to the development of soft skills for those disadvantaged kids.

As Variety Indonesia is still at its early stage of establishment, and the Board is still assessing which activities will generate most participants and have the greatest impact to those kids in need, several soft skills development activities have been executed on a small scale.

Among other activities are sketching and practicing English. The Board believes that with sketching activities, the kids are practicing how to have the courage to express themselves and appreciate other works while by mastering a foreign language, especially English, it will give these kids freedom in the future.

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On March 19th 2017, 30 Variety Kids had fun exploring the old city also known as ‘Kota Tua’ while practicing English. Kota Tua is a reminder of Oud Batavia, the first walled settlement of the Dutch in Jakarta area. It was an inner walled city with its own Castle. The area gained importance during the 17th-19th century when it was established as the de facto capital of the Dutch East Indies. This inner walled city contrasted with the surrounding kampung (villages), orchards, and rice fields. Dubbed “The Jewel of Asia” in the 16th century by European sailors, the area was a center of commerce due to its strategic location within the spice trade industry in the archipelago.

Even though these kids are born and raised in Jakarta, this was their first visit to Kota Tua. The tour included visiting 3 museums in the Kota Tua of Batavia, Fatahilla Museum, Puppet Museum and Ceramic and Art museum.

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While learning about their national heritage, the kids can practice speaking English not only with the volunteers but at this time, had a chance to practice speaking English with the natives as Rachelle Gaskell from UK (formerly a Director on the VI Board) and Tim Clark from Australia joined them.

This was a very happy occasion for the kids and they later excitedly try to explain what they had learnt in English.

At the end of the tour, the kids gathered at Batavia Market to have dinner. While having dinner, the kids did some performances in English, including singing and dancing.

The kids had a fantastic enjoyable day and thanked Variety – The Children’s Charity of Indonesia’s volunteers for making the day an unforgettable one.

Variety of Queensland

Annika is 15 years old and lives with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.

Annika suffers from continuous and debilitating back pain and increasingly restricted ranges of limb movement as a result of long periods spent sitting or lying.

Despite her challenges, Annika enjoys attending high school and in many ways she is much like other children her age. She has even learnt to ‘speed type’ using her nose when on messenger to her friends.

However, the help that Annika now needed most was a very specialised powered wheelchair, with a standing function to regularly move her young body, help reduce her constant back pain and give her more freedom and confidence by provide life-altering physical therapy benefits and freedom. Financially this was simply out of reach for the family unfortunately.

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This is where Variety – the Children’s charity of Queensland was able to step in. Thanks to the generosity of Variety supporters, Annika was granted her standing chair which has endless benefits to Annika’s quality and enjoyment of life.

Annika can now move herself into a standing position, which not only has health benefits for her but also emotional benefits like, as Annika said “not having my friends look down on me”. She can be at eye level with her peers and stand up for things like graduating from high school and attending her school formal which will all happen in the next few years as she transitions into young adulthood.

Variety of the Northern Territory

To the outside world, beautiful Stella Condie looks like any other happy and carefree 9 year old girl, but sadly on the inside, Stella has a ticking timebomb, which could end her young life at any time.

Diagnosed with a rare heart condition earlier this year, Stella lives daily with the disease Doctors are yet to confirm the name of. Sadly for Stella, she has a healthy heart, but it is the cartilage surrounding her heart that contains a virus which can cause her to go into Sudden Cardiac Arrest without warning.

The family, in a desperate bid to save their daughter, set up a fundraising Facebook page called Stella’s Defibrillator, to raise the vital funds to enable them to purchase an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to have at home in case Stella has a cardiac arrest, buying Stella the precious time needed until the paramedics arrive. The local Community was extremely supportive of the cause, with vital funds raised within weeks of the Facebook page going live.

In order to have enough funds for the family Variety NT were delighted to be able to financially support St John Ambulance (NT) and Stella Condie with the purchase of this vital equipment for Stella.

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With Variety NT’s assistance, St John’s Ambulance provided a HS1 defibrillation unit, 2 sets of defib pads, a first aid kit and two CPR courses for her parents, in the hope that this will make a difference. With the funds that were donated through the Facebook page, the family have purchased an additional defibrillator for Stella’s tennis coach Sam Giess, to have on hand at the Palmerston Tennis Club when Stella has her tennis lessons, a passion she refuses to give up.

Her family would like to make as many people aware of Stella’s case in the hope that should she go into Cardiac Arrest in public, someone will be able to assist. “We desperately want our girl to lead as normal a life as possible, but if by making her condition public knowledge saves her life, then that is the best outcome we can hope for”, stated Bridgett Condie, Stella’s Mum.

Sadly for Stella, she is a very reluctant star and only wants to be a normal child and not be treated any differently. She does not want to be singled out for her illness, but her parents are positive that by making the public aware of her condition, that it may save her life.

This story highlights the strategic push by Variety NT to secure alliances/partnerships with a range of organisations with a view of reaching as many children in need as possible.

Additionally, the social impact of this story also demonstrates not only the impact on a child’s life, but to that of the family and the community in assisting Stella have a normal life.

Variety of New South Wales

Born with a rare disease called CHARGE Syndrome, Lila is deaf in both ears, has little balance, low muscle tone and is vision impaired. In the first six months of her life she underwent open-heart surgery and had 186 medical appointments.

Now two, her parents wanted to try and help her start to walk so she started going to physio. At each session, when she was placed on her feet, she would cry in pain. Looking for other solutions her parents Natalie and Daniel heard about a new program using Occupational Therapy and thought it sounded perfect for Lila. Having used up all their government funding available for Lila they turned to Variety – the Children’s Charity for help.

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Variety was able to grant the funds needed to cover the therapy and within just two months of Lila starting she blew away all expectations. She is now up on her feet and walking with the assistance of holding her parents’ hands.

“Now it is one of her favourite things to do and all we hear is, “Lila walk, Lila walk” she loves to walk everywhere and is getting a lot stronger,” Natalie said.

“One hundred per cent the reason my daughter is doing so well is because of Variety.”

“Some people don’t realise there is very little funding available for a child with special needs, without Variety supporters she wouldn’t be making the leaps and bounds that she is and we are forever grateful. All I can say is thank you.”