Lewis Jeon was born without a right arm below the elbow and when he emigrated to Canada from Korea at the age of eight, he found it difficult to deal with both the language barrier and the lack of a limb — both of which set him apart from his peers and often made life difficult.
“It was pretty hard for me. I got stared at and I couldn’t explain myself,” said Jeon.
Life improved for Jeon when he began to attend the seminars operated by the War Amps B.C. Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program. That’s where he met counsellors who helped him cope with his experiences. Those counsellors were themselves amputees who had gone through similar experiences regarding their missing limbs and they gave Jeon the confidence to deal with his own hurdles.
“They became like the big brothers and sisters that I never had,” said Jeon.
Now 16 years of age, Jeon is giving back and this past weekend’s CHAMPS seminar, held at the Fairmont Hotel in Victoria, was his opportunity to act as a counselor for the younger seminar attendees. The seminar played host to over 90 child amputees and their parents and covered topics that ranged from the latest developments in artificial limbs to how to cope with bullying and teasing.
Rob Larman, the director of the War Amps Play Safe, Drive Safe Program said the annual conference was the launch-pad for the 2016 seminar season, adding its impossible to overstate the importance of these kind of events to the children.
Larman is an amputee himself and, as a child, found being different from your peers could be a difficult road to travel. He said that teasing, staring, and bullying are all too common for child amputees.
“These sessions help to give the kids the skills they need to help educate their schoolmates and others who might otherwise lack the understanding to treat them as equals, said Larman. “We even encourage them to give presentations to their classmates, showing them how an artificial limb works and answering questions to bring the whole thing into the light and create more normal relationships.”
Jeon said he’s grateful he can now return the kindness he’d been shown in the past by helping out those young amputees who are having a hard time coping with life today.
“I love the fact that I can return the kindness that I was shown and help out kids who are having a hard time coping with some of the problems that come with an amputee,” said Jeon. “What’s changed is now, with social media, I can keep in touch with these kids and provide a support for them long after the seminar weekend is over.”
The War Amps programs, which not only helps counsel and educate young amputees but also provide support in the provision of artificial limbs, is funded through money raised by the Key Tag Program. It’s the program’s 70th anniversary and Larman proudly reported more than 1.5 million sets of lost keys have been returned to their owners during that time.