The Second Annual Stairway Light Project, organised by the Stairway Club, welcomed a large number of people on Saturday, March 9th at the Blu Kouzina restaurant. The guests were entertained by speakers who talked about the purpose of the club and members who shared their experiences. The spirit of the Stairway Foundation was visible everywhere with the tables adorned with pictures of members with the boys at the Foundation. And, of course, the ubiquitous donation boxes to raise funds for the Foundation.
This well attended event follows the first Stairway Light project that was held last year as a gala function at the Hilton hotel raising over 30,000 dollars. This year, the club took the opportunity to further promote the cause of Stairway Foundation.
As the officers of the club took the microphone to share their service-trip experiences with Stairway and how much their lives have changed through spending time with the boys at the foundation, it became obvious that Stairway is far more than just a club for them. Their lives seemed to have been altered permanently and perhaps all of us could learn a thing or two from the children at Stairway.
The Stairway Foundation, founded in 1990(by Lars C. Jorgensen and Monica D. Ray), works to help protect children and their rights. A non- profit, non-stock, non-government organization located in Puerto Galera in Philippines, they push for protection of children’s rights. In the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation, Stairway helps sexually abused boys from the streets of Manila and brings them to the Foundation. Providing them with food and education, the foundation helps rehabilitate these boys to move on to a better life.
Skylar Ward(senior), secretary of the club, and someone who has been a part of the club for three years now spoke about her experiences in the club that changed her perspective on things in life. “The first time I went was to Stairway was in the November of my sophomore year, so it was right after I joined the club.”
Despite facing such hardships at their young age, the boys were nothing short of happy. “When you go, you’d expect the boys to be a little hostile or not friendly because of everything that they have been through, but honestly it’s the complete opposite. They’re so welcoming and kind. Just seeing that from people who have gone through some of the worst things people could experience, it really changed my view of the world. It made me look at life with a greater outlook.”
Stairway hosts camps called the “Youth For Change” camps for students from all over the world allowing the students to interact with the children staying in Foundation. The camp is an eye-opener to most students and makes them more aware of the rights and issues faced by children there and in similar situations. During some camps, the children from the foundation talk about their experiences and share how they have gotten through them and are moving forward with their lives. The stories and the real life experiences of these children is often a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
The camps also involve bonding activities such as playing group games, arts and crafts, kayaking, and Swimming. The visiting students learn how to not always rely on verbal conversations, and find commonalities with people of backgrounds far different to theirs.
As they say on their website, Stairway believes in “equality for all children” and with these camps, children all over the world get to learn it and experience it.
The Stairway club at SAS visits the boys at the foundation every year during the first semester. The officers of the club consist mainly of seniors with President Teagan Mountcastle and officers: CC Chung, Devon Yem, Skylar Ward and Olivia Gil de Bernabe(the only junior). With college in the fall, what would be their plans be to continue with their connection to Stairway?
CC Chung, co-vice president of Stairway and senior, said, “I’ve considered Stairway my home ever since I visited it in my sophomore year. I will definitely return. All the seniors and some of the juniors are actually planning on going back this summer. And I hope I’ll be able to go and visit every summer, and every break.”
As for members who are not a part of Stairway as of yet, and still have time to join the club, Skyler says, “If people are looking to join service clubs, I would say they definitely should join Stairway because while you become family with the boys, you also become family with the rest of the members. It’s a great environment. We always look forward to the meetings every week and even if you don’t want to travel to do service, it’s still such a great community in school to be in”
Adding onto that, CC says, “One thing we do pride ourselves in is that every member is involved in everything that we do. People do voluntarily come to the meetings and want to learn more about the boys and get involved.”
The event included videos of the service trips to Stairway and a video that boys at Stairway made, and raffles for themed baskets of a collective value more than a $1000. All in all, it was a heartwarming and pleasant affair that taught us that even through the toughest of times, we can be happy.