Remembering Yumin

by Jim Chiao, co-founder of FCSN

Let’s take a moment to remember our friend Yumin, who was a part of FCSN’s first group of youth volunteers. He passed away on Oct. 26 at the age of 38 after fighting cancer for the past 2 years. Yumin’s family was one of FCSN’s founding families in 1996, and Yumin joined as a youth volunteer in 1997 when FCSN first started our biweekly family gathering in San Jose. He had a warm personality that naturally attracted people. He was a model volunteer and a big brother to our kids with special needs. After he graduated from Harvard graduate school, he continued to help FCSN at various functions such as emceeing at our Family Day events. He touched so many people during his life. He will be truly missed.

The following is an article that Yumin wrote as a youth volunteer in 1997. He said it best when he wrote “I realize when I come here, I come as a friend of these children and not a volunteer. We can call ourselves maybe not an organization, but a family of people who support each other, help each other, and show others that we care”. From his own words, it’s easy to see why Yumin was loved by everyone.

A Family of Friends
By:  Yumin Yeh   Nov., 1997

The little boy was, I estimated, six years old, not more than seven. His hair was short and black, like most people here. His mom stood nearby, who held onto his hand and habitually turned her head to look at her son. He was crying heavily. I looked on, curious about this boy and my first bi-weekly meeting of the organization Friends of Children With Special Needs. Strangely, I saw him glance upwards toward his mom, and then run. He rushed off toward the nearest light switch and repeatedly shut it on and off. On. Laugh. Off. Laugh some more. He turned his head slightly as if the world was on a 45-degree slant. His mom walked over, with a bland expression that was anguished beyond restoration, and dragged him away.

Meanwhile, the child, oblivious to his mom, continued staring and putting his hand on his head as if to ponder some imponderable thing. My heart wrenched at the sight of this, realizing that this boy was not only abnormal but severely handicapped. I later learned that this boy was autistic and did not behave like this until he was two or three. My first experience at this loving organization has created an everlasting memory.

I consider myself normal and my family normal also. Well, normal to a certain extent. What I mean is that we have nobody in our family that has any special needs. So, you ask, what is my family doing in a organization like this? My mom was a part of the group of people that initiated this club. My brother, and I both participated and saw this organization grow. I joined this organization because of the urgings of my mom, who wanted me to experience the differences of this world. I retaliated, not wanting to waste my time, but later learned to appreciate what my mom did for me.

My role as a youth volunteer (otherwise known as the Dolphin group) at this organization is not to idly stand and watch, but to actively participate in the lives of the children. Currently, I am assigned to Frog group, which consists of about ten children, aged five to six-year old. They vary from regular children whose siblings are handicapped to severely disabled children who require discreet attention. I went to this organization every two weeks expecting something different. I learn more about each person I come in contact with, knowing I’ve woven a little thread in the simple fabric of their lives. No matter who or how I am helping, my appreciation for this organization and understanding of children with special needs increases.

Before my introduction to this organization, I did not realize what kind of people this world really contained. My knowledge of the wide spectrum of different people with different handicaps has expanded greatly. There are people of almost every kind of need here. Among the children that have autism and cerebral palsy or even the undiagnosed, there are an enormous amount of people with different needs.   Some need help walking while others need help in communicating.   While I can help with these needs, this is not why I am here. Not only do I help physically, but also offer my presence and emotional support. Though there are innumerable kinds of disabilities, they all have one need: love.
The assistance I give, although a learning experience, is also an invaluable emotional experience. My spirit grows in response to what I learn about each child. In the organization’s name, Friends of Children with Special Needs, or FCSN for short, there is a particular word that stands out. Not children, or special needs, but friends.

What exactly are these friends? Friends in the dictionary is defined as: one who knows, likes and trusts. The definition does not mention anything about people with special needs but only people who one knows, likes and trusts. And that is exactly why I choose to be here. I want to be someone who is known, liked and trusted by the children with special needs.

Our relationships between us as friends is what makes this organization so unique. Our group is not a specialized group where only children with special needs meet, but an organization of people of all kinds, coming together as a group to help each other. The difference of this organization between other organizations, is that we are not volunteers. We are not workers who are idly doing what other people tell us to do. We are friends. We are a community of people, recognizing what each person’s special need is and then looking past them. We are friends.

I realize that when I come here, I come as a friend of these children and not a volunteer. We can call ourselves maybe not an organization, but a family of people who support each other, help each other, and show others that we care.

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