We know that VISIONS participants are special.  After all, they choose to spend their summers in service to others. Although, certainly a change of scenery to a gorgeous, exotic location helps, too!  On the heels of each season, inevitably we learn just how special some participants are.  We learn that our friends in each community have touched the hearts of our participants so deeply that they are moved to do more service to the community.

Last summer, Tortola participants Kim Fleishman and Alex Sturman were enchanted with the young residents of Rainbow House, a home for children with mental and/or physical disabilities.  While they loved all the kids, Kim and Alex were especially touched by one boy in particular.  Alex recalls, “When I arrived at the Rainbow House for the first time, I was immediately struck by the spirit of all the children living there.  They were so eager to help us with our work and even more eager to see us.  One boy stood out to me though; his name was Joel.  The first thing I noticed abut him was this huge grin on his face while he sat crouched outside the house.  However, little did I know that if he could, he would have been standing.  I learned that Joel has a condition since birth that causes him to have disabilities with walking.  Every time I saw him crawl around, my heart ached for him; however, he never seemed to be upset or fazed by it in the least.  Despite his upbeat attitude, I knew that I wanted to help him somehow, and I shared this desire with my good friend, Kim.”

Kim remembers, “We thought about how sad it was that Joel could get around much easier with a walker, but the Rainbow House had no way to fund it.  I was talking to Joel one day and I asked him ‘if you could have one wish what would it be?’  He thought about it for a second and said ‘I wish I could use my legs more.’”

“Never in my life have I met a person with a spirit as constantly high as his,” says Alex.  “Even children that have life handed to them in an easy manner don’t smile like Joel does.  He has truly inspired me.  Joel has taught me that no matter how difficult things are, nothing is impossible; he has taught me not to take life for granted.  With many memories of peoples’ faces, they tend to blur away with time, however, Joel’s face will forever remain clear in my mind and I will always remember…that big smile.”

Once Alex and Kim returned to the US, they were determined get some walkers and they did. Says Kim: ”After we were ready to send the walkers, Alex and I started talking about Tortola memories and how much we missed the kids at the Rainbow House.  Despite everything that has happened to them in their short lives so far, they are still full of energy.  They have such a positive outlook on everything, and are so grateful.  I will never forget their faces when they saw the finished playground for the first time or the first time they saw their freshly painted rooms.  We thought about how much joy it would bring to them if they got new gifts. They love being entertained, and we figured this is a way to do it and show them that we still care. We want to raise money to buy comic books, board games, cards, etc.  These kids are so inspirational. They have taught us that you have to keep on going with life despite the hardships that you may face and that there is always something to look forward to.  They have taught us that you always have to keep a smile on your face because life is good.  This is just a small way for us to say thank you for letting us into their lives for an incredible summer and for teaching us the simple things in life.”

If you want to help Kim and Alex buy supplies for The Rainbow House, please send your donation to:
Alex Sturman  1070 Park Ave.
New York, New York 10128
Checks should be made out to Alex Sturman.  After the money is collected, she will buy the supplies, and send them on to The Rainbow House in Tortola.

VISIONS in The New York Times