CNN Hero of the Year Jeison Aristizabal Gives a Message of Hope
“Hello to Colombia. Hello to all the families that have a child with a disability. I want to tell you that yes you can,” he said. “You can dream, and you can achieve your dreams.”
This is the speech of Jeison Aristizábal as he warmly received the 2016 CNN's Hero of the Year award. It may have only included just a few lines; a very simple one at that, but enormously reflects his passion and mission to inspire and influence others, especially those who have a disability.
A native of Cali, Colombia, Jeison has spent most of his life achieving his dream to improve the lives of poor children with disabilities by assisting them in obtaining wheelchairs.
And he has been selflessly helping them in carrying their burdens while having his own struggles - this Colombian hero has Cerebral Palsy.
When Jeison was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy soon after he was born, his doctors have somewhat set their expectations by telling his mother, Maria Emilia, to buy Jeison a box and place him up in front of their house to become a shoe-shiner in the future. Little did they know that the baby whom they have judged would actually end up being a hero, an inspiring human being who will create a huge "shining" impact to the lives of his fellowmen when he grows up!
Although dealing with Jeison's condition was never easy as he had to endure the usual difficulties, inconveniences, all those name-calling and discrimination due to his disability, Jeison and his mom never stopped working in achieving his dreams. His ever supportive mother did not believe the doctors' so-called "forecast". Instead, she had faith that one day, his son will succeed by establishing the belief and steadfastness to Jeison that he has to make himself valued for his abilities, and that he is so worthy.
And sure enough, Jason did!
With the strong motivation from his mother and her relentless efforts in teaching Jeison how to deal with his classmates in a regular school, as well as training him on how to be independent, Jeison successfully graduated from highschool and from there gained the resolve to be self-reliant and to make sure that he is on the right path towards fulfilling his purpose.
Jeison did not stop accomplishing his goals, not only for himself but for the people in the underprivileged community that he is in.
He found his calling at the age of 17 and started helping the less-fortunate people with disabilities acquire a wheelchair. He felt the need for this type of assistance as having a wheelchair is not easy and certainly not affordable either. Then using their home garage, he organized his physical therapy center and eventually started his foundation named ASODISVALLE (Association of Disabled People of the Valley)
Right now, Jeison is helping around 530 children with a disability across five various locations in Colombia. His foundation programme provides education, nutrition and physical therapy, so the kids could live a fruitful and meaningful life.
Aside from the prestigious award, Jeison also received $100,000 which he will use in going on with his mission by expanding ASODISVALLE so he could help the impoverished children and youth with disabilities enrich their lives.
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Perhaps the reason why Jeison's message brought us to tears was because of the fact that we are deeply moved by his passion towards making a difference. While most of us wait for the right timing and the right opportunity to help, Jeison did not waste his time and dedicated his life serving others. All of us experience some kind of disability, an adversity or a challenge in our lives and universally, we are profoundly touched by his commitment to uplift the lives of others while dealing with his own difficulties.
In this world where most of us are driven by our personal goals, we tend to forget that changing the lives of our fellowmen and improving the quality of their lives provide a sense of satisfaction that cannot be found from anywhere else. The rewarding feeling and accomplishment by witnessing how a person transformed his disability into something that inspires others is truly magical. Believing that we are able to overcome life's sufferings- whether it is a disability, sickness or any kind of misfortune, is the first step towards conquering these hardships. And that dreams indeed do come true.
Robert Ingersoll's quote is indeed true, "We rise by lifting others."
**Primary Image Source: Instagram / @cnnheroes