You’ve heard it often enough: Millennials are selfish. Millennials are lazy. Millennials only care about themselves and their Instagram pages. Thankfully, a small but forceful disruption in that narrative can be found in the young people who are the wings, so to speak of Angels of Love Jamaica, a charity which supports children diagnosed with paediatric cancer. Founder Phillip Liu was inspired by a dream in which an angel appeared instructing him to form the charity, and today, that angelic theme continues in the form of 150 energised cadre of volunteers, most under the age of 25.
“Our mission is to offer support to children critically ill with cancer who can’t afford the life-saving treatment they desperately need. We help by easing their daily challenges. It’s definitely worth every effort when we see the joy, even our smallest actions bring,” said 22-year-old Zari Burnett, Chairperson, Angels of Love Jamaica, and Integrated Marketing Communication major at the University of the West Indies.
Dawn Green, Assistant Sales Manager at Magna Motor Dealers, was bowled over by the "Angels" she met when her company donated a Hyundai i10 to the charity in the Your Miles Matter campaign. “I was so impressed when I met the young women. Their poise and compassion was so refreshing especially at a time when the popular belief is that young people are not engaged. I know the purposefulness, love and care they share will move mountains for the children they assist,” she said.
Angels of Love Jamaica focusses on providing economic, social and informational support to children diagnosed with paediatric cancer. The programme extends across the island, and there are 46 patients currently enrolled. The charity supports the children by facilitating weekly hospital visits, home visits, paying for tests and medical examinations, buying medication, organising prosthetics, hosting on treats to lift their spirits, and sometimes providing financial support for parents.
Since its inception in 2007, the membership network has expanded to now include the Kingston Chapter and the UWI/UTECH Chapter - for students at the University of the West Indies and University of Technology. The charity has club chapters at Immaculate Conception High School, Campion College, Ardenne High School, The Wolmers Trust High Schools for Boys and Girls, St. Andrew High School for Girls, Hillel Academy and St. Jago High School.
The group continues to be a healing force for many children and caregivers who negotiate a range of psychosocial challenges as they make sense of their illnesses. Twenty-one-year-old Patient Affairs Coordinator Chelsi Cotterell, a final-year Economics major at The University of the West Indies shared that the interactions have added new meaning to her life. “I have grown mentally in a significant way, and I have learned to appreciate life more than ever. The angels have shown me how you can be happy despite negative events that may be going on in your life,” said Cotterell,
Executing the work of the Angels of Love Jamaica brings much joy and personal gratification to the volunteers who do not see their tasks as mere work but rather a mission to enrich the lives of the angels. “I remember when I had just joined the charity and we did a house visit to one of our little angels Nathan. He was so nervous to see all the new faces, but as soon as we handed him a set of Hot Wheels toy cars, his face just lit up, and that expression has been engrained in my mind ever since. I could do nothing but get on the floor and race with him, and since then I feel we’ve had a bond,” shared Burnett.
Despite juggling their busy schedules with school, work and other activities in their lives, the young women stay motivated to continue the work of the Angels of Love Jamaica. The charity's twenty-one-year-old Public Relations Officer, and final-year Finance and Banking major at the University of the West Indies, Gabrielle Waite is always heartened when the kids are smiling and playful. She said, “I think my most fulfilling moment was our Easter treat last year with the volunteers, little angels and their parents. It was amazing to see so many of them laughing, playing games and not being confined to a hospital bed. The unity and love of the parents were also very touching as they all experience similar struggles.”
While these executive members excel in their scholastic and philanthropic pursuits, they feel more millennials should find a way to drive social change in their communities. “I strongly believe that we have to be what we want to see in the world. Don’t be worried about not having the money to help a cause that’s important to you, because most often it is the time that you devote that is most valuable. When your passion for the cause is visible, others will take notice and offer their resources, and before you know it, your small actions would have made a huge impact on the lives of others,” added Burnett.