Dear Rekha, oil on canvas, 29.5x43.5 inches, 2018, Craig Hawkins
By: Naomi Zacharias
IT IS EASY to focus on the harm one person can do; we easily forget the impact for good the one can have. I was recently preparing a short presentation for a non-profit organization of high school and college students who are committed to supporting global economies. Simple Charity began in a Georgia-based high school with a handful of senior high school students committed to raising funds to support those affected by poverty. There was purity and innovation to their classic method. They ran a car wash, yard sales, poetry slams, nights of worship, a chili dinner. They held a battle of the bands and organized a 5K race.
With an artistic spray of a can of paint, they designed t-shirts to market. And during that first year, impassioned high school students raised over $60,000 for Christian organizations that work around the world to alleviate poverty. They inspired a movement and Simple Charity chapters now exist in high schools and universities around the US.
A few months ago, a chapter at Duke University raised funds to support Wellspring International’s initiative to build a surgical burn treatment facility in Southeast Asia. This fully equipped facility will cost over $1M to complete. In this haven, men, women, and children who cannot afford medical assistance receive treatment, restorative surgeries, and physical therapy.
The majority of patients are women. While causes include accidents and suicide attempts, the primary cause of injury is domestic violence. In this particular part of the world, an estimated 25,000 women are victims each year to an illegal practice called bride burning, when a young bride is set on fire if her family has not offered the desired dowry. About 8,000 of these women die. That is the violent end to the life of a woman, almost every hour. Simple Charity is responding to an issue not found in many headlines. But it is one that calls upon the values in our faith, and what is good in humanity, to respond to such suffering, recognizing that every individual carries within him or her the image of a holy God.
The extraordinary NGO that Wellspring is assisting provides medical care, therapeutic services, and reconstructive surgeries for people without alternative care for such serious injury. I hope I will not forget my first few visits there: the cement steps outside the door lined with patients waiting to be seen; sweltering heat and sweat dripping into fresh wounds as they were bandaged; treatment rooms partitioned off with white curtains to provide limited privacy for physical therapy on one side of the fabric and the new, raw injury of a victim bearing fresh agony through clenched teeth; the dark, vacant eyes of a young man who had tried to end his own life; the quiet countenance of a woman wounded at the violent hand of her husband, standing with her small daughter who was burned as she lunged to protect her mother.
A few years ago, because of the heart and generosity of one family, we were able to purchase land on which to build a surgical center. Plans detail a fully equipped 14,000 square foot facility that will enable an estimated 300 surgeries a year, an increase of 1000%. Given the scope of the project, we have moved slowly and carefully.
The current waiting list of patients awaiting surgery is over 300 names, and they silently call upon us with urgency. It is our hope and prayer that together we can answer and make their noble dream a reality. Clive Barker said, “Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.”
So we continue this journey. The students at Simple Charity remind me what can be accomplished with commitment and faith, with real heart. And should a handful of people be inspired by their example, a burn treatment center stands in the future. A line of patients will stand up from concrete steps and find space—for a hospital bed and a door where a curtain once stood, space for healing and an answer to their suffering. It is built upon the words of a man who carried your suffering and mine. A Savior who changed your story and mine, and calls us to reflect the heart of the Potter who is ultimately able to make beauty from all that makes us weep.