The Inspire a Kid Podcast

0008 Craig Scoville- Kids Across Cultures Pt1- the story of Li Ya Sha

December 8, 2017

Hey, thanks for tuning into The Inspire a Kid Podcast where we tell stories of inspiring kids, kid influencers who are inspiring kids, and adults who were inspired as kids to do amazing things. So today I have my really good friend and, really, co-worker, Craig Scoville, with me. And we're going to talk about an organization that is near and dear to my heart because I am the chairman of the board and Craig is the executive director of it and it's called Kids Across Cultures. Craig has been with Kids Across Cultures how long, Craig?

Gosh, Scott, since about 2008.

Yeah. It's been awhile.

So yeah. Coming up on 10 years, not quite there.

Awesome. Tell us a little bit about yourself. And why don't you go ahead and give a little background on KAC? And I'll chime in if I think of something that I want to add to it. But tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, my wife and I lived in Southwest China. We moved over there in 2000 and spent several-- well, from 2000 to 2008 we were in Southwest China and did a lot of human needs ministries and things like that. Kind of got to know people. And we were working with a specific people group over there and got to know the area that they live in, and some of the needs that they have. And so as we came back from living there, really wanted to stay involved and work among this people. And Kids Across Cultures was a good avenue for us to be able to do that.

Yeah. So Kids Across Cultures had done some other things. Were you involved in Kids Across Cultures before then?

We worked with Kids Across Cultures as far as them helping to fund some projects that we were doing. But it was just getting off the ground, really just getting started when I came back in 2008.

So before we get into the specific projects and the place that you were at, Kids Across Cultures has been around since before then, little bit before then. But they've done a whole lot of things for kids. Some of the projects, if I'm remembering right, before I was ever chairman of the board, but we've done projects dealing with malaria and education.

Yeah. We scholarship 20, 25 students every year for the last several years, helping them be able to get through high school and then onto a trade school or a college for many of them.

We built a school.

We've built a few schools, actually. We've built some schools down in south of China, in another country. And then we've also helped build a couple schools there in China.

Yeah. And Mexico, we've done some work in Mexico.

We have. Yeah. We've been a part of helping to build three schools in Mexico. And we also, in those schools, provided funds for teachers to be able to teach in those schools for their first three or four years of existence to kind of get them a good foundation. Part of the funding that we've given to that specific project also provides food. They provide meals for the kids each day, breakfast and lunch. And so part of what we've been able to help with is that, as well, so.

And right now a lot of our stuff is water projects. Clean water is one of the easiest things to take care of in any culture. A lot of people have access to water, it's just not always clean. Some people do have to travel a long way and wells are needed and things like that. But in a lot of the communities, especially ones we deal with, there's water around. They just don't have access to clean water. So that's kind of where Kids Across Cultures is working now in  we're starting to see actually the needle move. I was looking at some statistics the other day and it looked like now the needle is moving the other direction and more and more people are gaining access to clean water. It's not just because of Kids Across Cultures, there's a whole lot of organizations that are working for this, and so I'm real proud to be a part of something that is really making some changes in the lives of kids. So I want the listeners to understand that Kids Across Cultures is really about helping kids across cultures. In the place that you're talking about in China where you're working, there's a story I want you tell the listeners, kind of how Kids Across Cultures was involved in this, because you're involved in not just giving, getting clean water, but you're really involved in a whole community transformation. That's what you want to see, right?

Yeah. We have a program we call CTT, it's Community Transformation Training, and really, what that means is we enter into a community for the first time, usually we go by invitation by a local person, and they will invite us knowing who we are and what we're doing there. So we go into a community with kind of the idea of looking at the holisitic needs of the community and the individuals in the community. What are the main issues they're dealing with, whether it's clean water or lack of clean water. We've gone to some places where there's malnutrition, lack of education. And so we basically go in with the idea of kind of assessing the village and the community and seeing what are some areas we can help with. And it's different each time. There's some things that are-- in some of the places we go, water is always an issue. I can go into ten villages along a road and all ten of those villages will have dirty, not good water, unhealthy water. But there's also a lot of other issues besides just water that we deal with. People need, kids need education. And so helping schools to be able to better educate their kids, helping parents be able to get their kids to school, helping schools to have access to clean water for the kids that come. So we do a lot of work with schools and with children, getting them to be able to get an education.

So an entire school, we'll actually provide water for classrooms, and I saw some numbers the other day, but it's not fresh on the top of my head, how many schools and students have we impacted? What are the some of the numbers? Do you remember?

I think we're around 1,100, 1,200 students-- or, no, I'm sorry, 5,000 students, something like that. It's closer to 5,000 students. We've gone into quite a few schools. So some of the schools are small. The village schools maybe only have 20, 30 kids, but then the upper levels schools, some of them have up to 500, 600 kids. And so this past year, this 2017 year, we focused on getting into as many schools as possible. And I think we were able to get into 20, 30 schools.

Cool. So a story that I want you to share with everybody, one of the communities you went into, you met a young man named Yasha. Why don't you tell us a little bit about Yasha, and kind of what the community transformation looks like when a kid gets involved and kind of what happened in this story.

This is a great story. This young man really made a huge impact on my life, personally, and the lives of literally hundreds, if not thousands of other people. We were working, and we had done some work in some villages nearby where he lives. His village is actually higher up the mountain and much harder to get to than some of the villages we'd been working in. But [VSN?] relationships, he got a phone number and contacted some of my co-workers, and asked if we could come and help him. And, basically, he had a cancerous tumor on the back of his neck. And he, at that point, was not completely paralyzed but was close to it. And so we're not doctors. And we explained that to him. And his father, actually, is, what we call, a village doctor. And so he can kind of give out medicine, and give shots, and things like that. But they were really looking for some help. And so he had contacted us. And so two of our co-workers went up, made the trip up to his village to meet him, and to see kind of face-to-face what was going on and [crosstalk]--

When you say up to his village, I mean, this was not necessarily an easy trip [laughter].

Oh, absolutely not. No. I mean, to get up to his village, these two young ladies left the city that we office out of on a bus, and went about four hours to another city, and then, hired motorcycles to take them up the mountain, probably, another two hours up the mountain, and windy paths, and dirt roads, and--

Man.

Yeah. It's intense getting up there to some of these places [laughter]. And that's part of why they struggle so much. If they were easy to get to, then people would go and help them. So they made the trip up. And they met this young man and heard his story, saw what was going on, listened to his parents share about their experience, and the things they'd done trying to help him. And they brought kind of the story back to our office and shared with me and the rest of our team. And so we happened to be-- not long after, about two, three weeks later, we were going up to a nearby village to do some vision screening in a school where we, basically, test vision with kids. And so I made the trek from where we were doing vision screening with two or three other team members. We went ahead and drove on up to meet Yasha, Liyasha. And that was the first time I had met him. And, by this time, he was pretty much paralyzed. He could move his hands, sit up, but he couldn't walk. And he was in a chair. And we had some great conversations about just his situation and the things that he had experienced trying to get physical help. And there just wasn't really-- we sent his x-rays and things off, his CT scans off to foreign doctors. And there just didn't seem to be any answer for him. And so Yasha became a really, really dear friend and just an incredible young man. As we shared with him and kind of shared life with him, he shared with us just a real passion and a desire to see his village transformed. He wanted to see kids in his village have opportunity to go to school. His father, being the village doctor, every day that we were there visiting, every time we'd go to visit him, kids and, usually, moms would bring kids up to-- bring their sick kids up to see his dad. And so he knew every kid in the village, basically, and every family. And they knew him and knew his situation. And so we began to talk about what it would look like to see transformation come to his village. And so one of the first things, of course, was water we introduced the ceramic water filters that we distribute and put a couple of those in his parent's home. And immediately, his dad saw the difference. Being the doctor, he saw the difference. Kids would come up there, they'd drink the water, and they didn't get sick. And so he asked could we put those in the village and, of course, we did. And we put them throughout the village. And immediately, he saw a huge difference in the types of illnesses that kids had in the village. From that point, we wanted to help him really gain credibility as a doctor in the village. And so we had, on his invitation, some foreign doctors come and we put on a clinic, a medical clinic there. And we invited people to come from all the surrounding villages and receive free medical care.

Cool.

Yeah, it was great. We had, gosh, I think we probably had 300 villagers show up for over a couple days. And we had vision screening, medical doctor, and we didn't do dental on that one but we had plenty [laughter], so. And so during this time, Yasha's, his attitude, his life began to turn around. Of course, by this time now, we were going up on a regular basis. And we actually made it a point as a team, that no matter what we had going on, every month somebody from our team would go visit him. And he became that close to us and that much of a friend. And so as teams would come over to serve in different areas, we'd teach English in some towns a couple hours away. Well, I would always make it a point to take people up to me, Yasha, and both Americans and locals. And just, he became a huge part of our lives, my life, in particular, and of course the lives of my team members. And so we would talk about, and dream together about his village, and again, what transformation would look like. And one of the visions, one of the dreams his dad had was for a little clinic in the village. And so we set out to help build that clinic and raise, just, a little bit of money. And him and the villagers put in all the labor. And today, there's a small clinic there in the village. And one of the problems they had as well, is they had access, they had water that was coming to their village. You were on this trip [crosstalk].

Yeah. That was the last time I got to see Yasha, as a matter of fact. We had gone up to do a water project where we were trying to get water from a waterfall. What was that? Kilometer away, or something like that?

It was a couple. Two kilometers, I think.

Two kilometers away. But their water ran to their village in an open ditch through fields where they fertilized, and where there was just raw sewage and no telling-- animals could drink out of it and animal waste and everything else. And by the time it got down to the village, it was lethal, just lethal. And so we were trying to bypass that.

Yeah, we ran pipe. We ran pipe, a plastic pipe from the water source down to the village and, basically, were able to cure the problem of all the pollutants getting into the water. And then of course with the ceramic water filters, well that took care of all the bacteria and things, so. So we've done several projects in this village. We've, over the years, gotten to know other kids like Yasha. Young lady, a young girl, sweet young girl when she was a baby, she got her hand in a fire. And did you meet her? Do you remember?

What was her name again?

We call her just little Mae-Mae, little sister.

Yeah, Mae-Mae, that's right.

So because of the scarring, her hand was basically webbed together and partially closed. And she couldn't hardly use that hand. And so she came to our-- her mom brought her to our clinic and asked if there's anything we could do. And we were able to get her up to a larger city and get a plastic surgeon to do surgery on her hand. And, today, her hand's just as normal as yours and mine.

I think I did meet Mae-Mae because she has a lot of energy.

Lot of energy, huge smile, beautiful smile.

Sweet, sweet kid, golly.

And, yeah, just a real heart for her people as well. So, yeah. Yasha, great young man. I mean, literally, over the years, we took hundreds of people up to meet him, and to hear his story, and to try and encourage him. And, each and every time, a team would leave their home I feel like much more encouraged then what they were able to leave. It's been two years now, I believe two years now since Yasha finally passed away due to the cancer. But his life really made a difference, changed forever the lives of everybody in his village. And they're not completely where we'd like them to be. There's a lot of work to be done in their village. But they have clean water. They have access to a clean, healthy clinic. They have a regular clean water source in every home. And their kids have access to education. And we're working to, hopefully, do more in the village and see much more of a difference made.

Truly a holistic approach to seeing a community change. And just think, man, if he had not heard, first of all, about the work that the CTT team, [KC?], was doing, he would never have called. And then, there wouldn't have been that six-hour initial trip. But just the compassion and just there's so many people everywhere that are so interested in seeing people's lives change. And you got several people on your team who are willing to see that happen, including yourself. And, just to see this story unfold, and seeing how one young man's determination and desire to see a community changed can literally see his community changed, one person, unlimited potential. And that's what Kids Across Cultures is about. This is also about what [my?] inspire kid. I want to tell the stories like this. I want to hear stories like this because I believe that every person, every kid, especially, has unlimited potential to impact their community, their world, their nation. And Yasha is a perfect example of this.

He really is. I think Scott, just one thing that what you just said makes me think of with Yasha is we certainly want to see transformation come to a whole village and numbers of villages. But this was an instance-- and I think it more often then not it works this way, that we were introduced to one person, and invested in one person. And the investment in that person, then, spread to others. And it continues to spread. I still have young people from the school over there and that are on our team that talk regularly about this young man and the impact that he had in their lives. And that will go on. It will go on.

Yeah. That's fantastic. Tell us about how the listener can get in touch with Kids Across Cultures, you, or, if they want to be a part of this change, what can they do?

Well, you can find out more information about Kids Across Cultures, of course, on our website, which is www.kidsacrosscultures.org. And you'll see a list of our projects and different things we do, and opportunities to financially support a project if you want to. We'd love to hear from you. If you're interested in a Kids Across Cultures project or just wanting to know more about what we do, we'd love to hear from you, whether you're an adult. If you have kids that you want them to know and understand more about what it means to invest in other people, what it means to make a difference in people's lives, we'd love to hear from you. And one of us will contact you, get back with you, and just begin to share and talk about what's going on, and how you can be a part.

And, if you're a teacher, and you have a whole classroom of kids, and you're interested in helping them see something outside of their four walls, and outside of their small sphere of life that they are able to live, we can connect schools with schools, classrooms with classrooms, just students with students. We've even sponsored some vision trips, not super directly, but some of the same people. We've had trips of kids come from China to the States to learn English, just to interact in this cultural environment. There's lots and lots of opportunities that Kids Across Cultures can make happen if you're interested. We'd love to talk. We certainly would. Craig, thanks for being here. We're going to be back soon. And we want to talk about another story and talk a little bit about kind of what goes on with ESL, and some things like that. But we'll be back soon to talk about it. Thanks for your time today, man.

Hey, thank you. Enjoyed it, Scott