BEING a former World Vision-sponsored child, South Korean Oh Sung-Sam vowed that he would pay it forward and become a sponsor himself.
After going through hardships since losing his father at 11 years old, Oh dreamed of a better life for himself so he could give back to society.
He was one of the many children who suffered during the Korean war.
All it took was one kind soul at World Vision International and a cheque of US$1,000 to change his life forever.
“When I wrote the letter requesting for funds to complete my education, I was desperate and it was my last resort.
“If World Vision had told me ‘no’ back then, I would not be where I am today but a letter with a cheque came, ” he said.
With the money, he managed to complete his studies and fulfil his dream to becoming an educator.
Fresh out of high school, Oh enrolled in South Korea’s reserve officers training corps in hopes of breaking free from poverty but his hopes were dashed due to pleurisy, a condition often caused by infection such as pneumonia.
“I believe I got it from all the nights sleeping on the school’s cold floor even during winter, ” he said, explaining that money was scarce and he did not have a proper place to live.
He then set his sights on a degree in the United States.
One problem remained, he did not have the money to even buy an air ticket.
“But I was determined and I told myself that if there was a will there was always a way, so I became a volunteer to accompany about five children who were up for adoption, to the US.
“When I got there, life was way harsher than what I faced back home, ” he said. He did manage to get enrolled in a university to pursue his degree but lost his scholarship right before the last semester was about to begin.
Oh, now 73, said this was where World Vision International saved him and enabled him continued on the path he set for himself. Consequently, he grew more determined than ever to keep the promise he made himself to help others.
Upon completing his studies, he donated US$7,000 to World Vision Korea.
His first job was as a high school principal, before he became a professor at Konkuk University in Seoul and finally, dean of the Graduate School of Education.
Oh started paying it forward by sponsoring three children under World Vision and increased the number by an additional child per year.
He is currently sponsoring 10 children in various countries.
“Although previously as a student, I was constantly worried about finding money to pay tuition fees, I wish to spread the message that there is no ordeal too severe to overcome.
“And I believe we have to help those in need to overcome them, just like I have, ” he said.
Oh shared his life story at World Vision’s 70th anniversary celebration in Petaling Jaya. He was joined by World Vision Malaysia advocates Deborah Henry, Owen Yap, Phoebe Yap and Freda Liu.
Also present was Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh and World Vision Malaysia chief executive officer Daniel Boey.
“This is an event of celebration and hope, as we have been able to help so many people in the past 70 years and we strive to go further as well as bring more awareness to people, ” said Boey.
He said World Vision was started by Rev Dr Bob Pierce who believed all children had the right to fulfilling lives.
“World Vision Malaysia will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that each child can lead a hopeful, safe, healthy and meaningful life, ” he added.
Yeoh hoped that there would be more people speaking up and giving a voice to those who could not speak up, such as very young children.
“This year, the ministry is giving attention to prevention of baby dumping. We are working with pharmacies to create awareness among women and let them know that there is always a place to leave their babies for others to care for them, ” she said.
She explained that the campaign posters were put up in pharmacies to spread the message to women as they dropped into a pharmacy to buy pregnancy test kits.
“Interventions like this cost the ministry nothing as we partner up with the corporate sector that wished to play their part in spreading the message and raising awareness.
“We always welcome and seek cooperation from various parties be it private or non-governmental organisations (NGO) like World Vision Malaysia to help us protect children and give them a voice, ” she said.
Yeoh announced a contribution of RM10,000 to World Vision Malaysia from her ministerial allocation as a gesture to show support for the NGO.
To mark its anniversary, World Vision Malaysia will be rolling out initiatives throughout this year to further support children and communities in need.
The launch featured a one-day photo exhibition titled “70 Years of Hope” showcasing the history of World Vision from its inception to the present.
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