At one meter in height and weighing just 11 kilograms, Esther is tiny for her age. She can only eat one fifth of what other children in her class can eat at mealtimes.
She also needs costly injections to treat her growth hormone deficiency, a treatment her protectors at the Holt Orphanage have struggled to fund while also caring for 40 other parentless kids.
Esther will need the growth-boosting injections until she is 12 years old to ensure she grows to the maximum possible height.
Without the treatment, Esther could not even reach 125 centimeters in height, which is as tall as her condition is ever likely to permit her to grow.
Lyons first met Esther before raising funds for her by walking the Gunsan marathon last May.
“The first time I saw Esther it was a bit of a shock, I didn’t quite realize what her conditions meant,” said the Canadian who has taught English in Korea for the past 11 years. “I had read about it online but when I saw her I was a bit taken aback. On the first visit it was difficult not to shed copious amounts of tears. She cannot eat solid food so she looks undernourished. Her body isn’t developed. She is tiny. She weighs almost nothing, has bad eyes and is very thin.”
Community fundraising surrounding Lyons’ Gunsan marathon walk last May raised 4.1 million won. Children at Lyons’ hagwon donated their candy money, and a local janitor gave 60,000 won in coins he swept up at a big public building over the course of a month. A doctor at Jeonbuk University Hospital walked around collecting cash in a piggy bank for a day. Another doctor, who had started his clinic ten years earlier, donated his 140,000 won first day’s earnings, which he had saved in an envelope for a decade in anticipation of such a worthy cause.
KBS1 charity TV show “Running Man” then featured Esther’s cause to raise another 5 million won.
“By raising money for Esther we are helping all the children at the orphanage as they don’t need to use so much of their funds to pay for her medication. The orphanage gets money from the government and other donors but it is never enough. The cost of treating Esther is very high and there are other children who need clothing, food and help as well,” Lyons added during a telephone interview with The Korea Herald.
He said in many ways she is like any other little girl: “She likes all the things that other 8-year-old children like. She likes the same TV programs and her favorite color is pink. When you look at her, apart from how thin he is, she is just like any other kid.”
And the hagwon teacher, who visits the little girl at least twice a month, said he was pleased to see their relationship warm over the twelve months he has known her.
“Now she will come and sit in my lap of her own accord, and she asks for me if I am not there. It is these kinds of breakthrough that you can’t put a price on.
“She cannot understand what I say when I speak in English, but I have told her that I will help her for as long as I possibly can.”
A murder mystery night organized by the expat community has already contributed 750,000 won towards this year’s fundraising efforts for Esther’s orphanage.
Although there is no official marathon organized, Lyons who cannot run because of a previous cartilage operation ― intends to start a 42 kilometer marathon course from Jeonju’s Sam Cheon Dong at 5 a.m. on Saturday.
A tent will be open near the starting line at Santa Monica restaurant all day for people to make donations. A team of supportive volunteers will also give out 4,000 fliers and collect donations around the Jeonju streets.
Around 15 friends are expected to join Lyons as he completes the difficult last 5 kilometers of the course.
And the walker has a special motivation for completing ― little Esther will be waiting for him at the finish line.
Anyone wishing to find out more or to join Lyons on the final 10 or 5 kilometers of his walk can call 063-223-5622. Those wishing to donate money to Esther and the other children at Holt orphanage can do so via Jeonbuk Bank 542-21-063059, account name Terry Lyons Orphan ParkEsther.
By Kirsty Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
장애고아 위해 42.195㎞ 걷는 캐나다 노신사
캐나다 출신의 한 푸른 눈의 노신사가 장애를 앓는 고아에게 희망과 용기를 심어주기 위해 마라톤 걷기 대회를 연다.
주인공은 전주 모 영어학원 원장인 테리 라이언(Terry Lyons.66)씨.
캐나다 킹스턴이 고향인 라이언씨는 1998년 가을 사업에 실패한 뒤 전북 전주로 왔다.
전주 삼천동에서 영어학원을 운영하던 그는 "이 아이들은 부모 밑에서 좋은 교 육을 받고 있는데 고아들은 어떤 생활을 할까"라는 생각에 전주시내 고아원을 알음 알음 알아봤다.
그가 2007년 전주영아원에서 만난 고아가 박에스더(8)양이다. 박양은 선천적으 로 항문폐쇄로 고통을 받았고, 성장까지 멈춰 호르몬 주사를 주기적으로 맞아야 했 기에 더 마음이 쓰였다.
어떻게 하면 박양을 도울까 하는 생각에 마라톤 대회에 참가해 후원금을 모으기 로 했다.
마라톤 연습 중 인대를 다쳐 뛸 수 없다는 판정을 받은 라이언씨는 뛰는 대신 걸어서라도 박양을 도왔다.
대회에 참가한 라이언씨는 무릎과 허벅지가 끊어질 듯한 통증이 계속됐고 가슴 이 터질 것처럼 숨이 차올랐지만, 에스더양의 해맑은 미소를 생각하면 도저히 중도 에 그만둘 수가 없었다.
고통도 '할 수 있다'는 의지를 꺾진 못했고 라이언씨는 결국 출발점을 떠난 지 6시간 만에 결승점을 밟았다.
이 같은 라이언씨의 선행이 알려지면서 격려전화는 물론 에스더양을 돕기 위한 성금기탁이 잇따랐다.
전북대 의대 교수와 시민, 학원생 등은 십시일반으로 430만원을 모았고 이 돈은 박양에게 전달됐다.
이들의 도움을 받은 박양은 상태가 호전돼 올해는 학교에도 진학했다.
용기를 얻은 라이언씨는 또 다른 희망을 위해 오는 28일 오전 5시 전주 삼천변 에서 '사랑의 마라톤 걷기'를 한다.
박양은 처음엔 파란 눈의 외국인 할아버지가 자신을 찾아오는 것을 무서워하고 수염이 까칠하다며 꺼렸지만 이제는 제법 그에게 안기고 사랑 표현도 한다.
라이언씨는 "이 세상에 홀로 남겨진 에스더가 낙담하지 않고 희망과 꿈을 가지 길 바란다"며 "그녀가 성장할 때까지 계속 도울 생각이다"고 말했다.