Oylan Dong founded Project Outstanding Youth (Project OY) and completed these projects, among many others. She is dedicated to serving disadvantaged children in Panama.
Inspired by her sisters who had done service in Africa, Oylan decided to work in a Spanish speaking country. A family friend introduced her to orphanages and youth centers in Panama. Over the past three years, she has visited Panama five times, spending most of her free time, holidays and vacations helping hundreds of poor children and families.
Malambo is the only orphanage in Panama that accepts and cares for babies with AIDS and Oylan was deeply moved by the experience of meeting a number of these children.
During her visit, Oylan learned that the orphanage’s goat farm, a major source of milk and protein for these children, was badly in need of renovation. The soil had become contaminated with bacteria and was infecting the goats. Oylan wanted to help with the renovation and raised $25,000 for Malambo by contacting hundreds of friends and family members. She was awarded a Certificate of Achievement by Malambo at a special ceremony last June. The new goat farm now provides milk and meat to 180 children, including orphans born with AIDS.
Ciudad del Nino (CDN) takes in boys from distressed families. They live at the facility during the week where there are teachers, coaches and mentors who help with homework and provide after-school activities. CDN also helps the families by providing vocational training to the parents and psychological counseling to all members of the family.
Oylan befriended two young boys from the Vasquez family. The social worker explained their plight. Oylan met the family of seven who had been living in a small shack made of metal sheets and cardboard, not big enough for even one person to stand up straight. They had no electricity, running water, kitchen or bathroom and only two small beds for the entire family. In addition, a visiting uncle had sexually abused the children, the mother had cancer and the father was unemployed.
Oylan went home and raised $4,000 to build the Vasquez family a new home. After the house was built, she returned to visit. The difference was amazing! The new house seemed to be a catalyst to the family’s turnaround. The mother’s cancer was in remission, the elderly father had gotten a job, the girls’ grades in school had greatly improved and the previously angry young boy had become happy and even playful. Motivated by this success, Oylan went back to CDN to do more volunteer work.
During another visit, she met a member of the Lozada family and was able to assist them also. The Lozado’s home was similar to the Vasquez family. The family is headed by the mother and there are five children. One of the daughters has cerebral palsy and is need of constant care. Because she is handicapped and the home is only accessible via a steep mountain path, the girl cannot attend school. Oylan could see just how much they would benefit from a new home in a flat area, near schools and clinics.
Oylan raised another $4,000 to build the Lozada family a home. On her visit during June of 2008, she accompanied the mother to review the construction of their new home. The school is within walking distance. The health clinic is next to the school and the village is nearby. Oylan hopes to return to see the completed house and would like to bring friends with her to help paint.
Over the past few years, Oylan found numerous projects to tackle, some successfully and others that will continue to succeed over time. These experiences have changes her; she is more empathetic towards the poor, the ill, and the under-educated, which is a source of continual inspiration for Oylan. She will continue to look for needs both domestically and globally, where she can utilize her skills and abilities to continue to make a difference in the lives of others.