LWB Community Blog

Bubbles for Isabelle

We’d like to introduce our readers to a very special family with whom LWB is partnering in the coming year. The Van Der Meer family heard about LWB through the Ashley Campbell Incubator Project a few months ago and contacted us about working with us in conjunction with their organization called “Bubbles for Isabelle” an organization formed to honor the memory of the Van Der Meer’s daughter, Isabelle.  Kelley Van Der Meer writes to tell us about her beloved daughter and why they have chosen to honor her by helping children in need in China.


In May 2011, we lost our gorgeous, happy, sparkling two-year-old daughter Isabelle due to complications from a virus that had reached her brain. There is no blueprint for surviving a loss like this, but we are trying. And through all of our questions “why?” and through all of our tears, it is still our duty as her parents to see that her life – and her death – be met with beauty and meaning. Bubbles for Isabelle is one way we honor her throughout the years, and through doing so, help others. You can see the culmination of many people from around the world taking our hand.

The Van Der Meers have chosen one project for each month of the coming year, starting this month, to partner with LWB to benefit orphaned and impoverished children in China in Isabelle’s memory. The first project features a young man in LWB’s Secondary and Higher Education Program. Donations received this month will go towards this young man’s tuition for his education. Each month Bubbles for Isabelle will feature a different program or special project in Isabelle’s honor. Kelley shares why they have chosen Jia Qi for their first project.

This is our first project that we are launching in memory of our daughter Isabelle’s 4th year of life. I was extremely taken with Huang Jia Qi, a young man in LWB’s Sunflower Project, and the hardships that he has overcome, and so we are sponsoring his education this month. When I learned that he had suffered polio as a child it took me back to one of the many conversations I had with doctors in which I was trying desperately to understand the medical language in her autopsy. The reference to viral inflammation of gray matter (in her brain) was prominent in her autopsy and as it was explained to me, Polio is a Greek abbreviation poliomyelitis (polios meaning “gray” and muelos meaning “marrow.”) Just one of the many things I wish I didn’t have the experience of learning. In trying to understand why the virus that led to Isabelle’s death did not affect me, or her brother or anyone else, they often compared it to polio. They spoke of the time during polio outbreaks, in which one person would fatally be infected, one person would not be affected at all, and the others could suffer various injuries somewhere in between.

Jia Qi survived his polio infection and desperately wants to further his education. He has six members in his family: his parents, three older brothers, and himself. Both of his parents are farmers whose annual income is lower than 5000 yuan ($784 USD). His two oldest brothers have been working hard to support the family since they graduated from junior school; as they had to help support the family, they never attended high school.

Jia Qi is extremely hard-working. He is currently working part-time at his university library and they pay him a token sum for his work. He also does other volunteer work to help others.

In his first letter, this kind young man wrote, “Though I know little about you, I want to share. When I was three years old, I fell ill with a terrible sickness. My parents went to many hospitals, but no doctors could help me. Finally, my family gave up. As a result, I can not stand up or walk like other people. I have to use one of my hands to help my feet walk. I recently discovered that my disease is called polio or infantile paralysis. The good thing is that my teachers and classmates like me and treat me well. I like to make jokes and I love life. I recall a beautiful sentence I once heard, but I’m not sure the meaning will translate: For a chance to see the sunshine, I came to the world. It took three days to write this letter, since I am not good at English. I am working hard to learn so that we can communicate in the future.”

To learn more about The Sunflower Project and the hardships its students must overcome, please take a few minutes to watch this video. We think it’s especially poignant to view as so many of us send our own children back to school.

With the great loss of their precious daughter, the Van Der Meer family is doing something wonderful in Isabelle’s memory: helping children in need.

Read more or make your donation here.

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