Movement and Mountains
Updated: Apr 7
Chef Walter Lee has lived in Bangkok, Thailand since 1989. He made a home there with his wife Nok and became a celebrity chef along the way. Better known as Chef Kani, he is both founder and CEO of Ventertec Marketing Company which was established in 1993. Specializing in convenient meal options, Ventertec focuses on crab meat and wasabi-based products, using Walter as the face of the company. As Walter's business grew, so did his family. By 2006, he and Nok already had 2 children, V and Mij, with a third on the way. That third child would be Zy, the boy that Chef Walter has dubbed his Little Professor thanks to all the lessons he has learned from, and with him.
Zy is the namesake of the Zy Movement Foundation, formally founded in 2010. Zy has been differently abled since birth. His actual complete left arm, half a right arm, no right leg, a malformed left leg with three toes, and dislocated hip joints. These disabilities were the only challenge facing Zy, who was mentally no different from any child. How Walter and Nok responded to this challenge was emphatic to say the least. For the first few years of Zy's life, they sought treatment and prosthetic options from the region's best doctors and specialists, holding out hope for Zy to walk and stand on his own. Walter was always seeking out options for Zy, eventually finding Prof. Carstens of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. The hope that the German team gave Walter and Zy was encouraging: an 80% chance to stand and walk over the next few years. In that moment, Walter found a distinct hope, a clarity that he had been seeking for his son. And in that same moment, he realized he thought of so many others just like his Zy, the millions of disabled children across Thailand and South East Asia. Almost every entrepreneur has that Eureka! Moment, a fullness of clarity that sets you down the path to success. In this instance, Walter was called to help not only his own son, but also many other children just like Zy. On the foundation’s website, Walter said this “If I should be spending all these resources to treat one child, why couldn’t the treatment process to properly documented and disseminated so that potentially millions of disabled children might benefit from it? So if one could not afford to use the best of materials like what they use in Germany, maybe they could use plywood or bamboo here.” The empathy of Chef Walter towards children just like Zy across the region was that spark that brought the Zy Movement Foundation into reality.
Getting to know how the foundation works begins with knowing their core objectives. What has always been evident, is that the foundation’s desire to facilitate and empower children with movement disabilities. They are focusing on kids just like Zy, with either congenital limb deficiencies or cerebral palsy, hoping that one day these children develop complete freedom of movement and a positive mindset, and eventually and independent life. This forward thinking mentality of the Zy Movement Foundation also plays into rehabilitating the way caregivers and families of the children manage and understand the children, as well as themselves. Working with those closest to the differently abled children creates a clear path forward.
The last two objectives the foundation has laid out deal with more external factors that deal more with the information, rather than the treatment itself. The foundation looks to support and facilitate research and know-how exchange between pediatric medical professionals across the world. Part of this phase in the plan is a Teach and Travel program, beginning with the Heidelberg University doctors to spend some time in Thailand, sharing their technical expertise with Thai medical practitioners. In return, the foundation would organize a trip for select government doctors, very similar to academic exchange programs. The last objective, which they have had much success with recently, involves creating awareness and understanding for children with disabilities through the public forum. The goal here is to change societal perceptions, moving from seeing people with disabilities as patients and charity cases, to treating them as equals, regardless of how differently abled they are.
One of the projects that has brought significant attention to the foundation’s efforts is their “Climb to Change a Life” series. Over the years, the foundation has made several hiking trips both regionally and domestically, showing the world that the kids could climb to new heights. Walter and Zy are fixtures at these climbs, alongside other children who are currently receiving similar treatment (and of course, with their parents along for the ride). From Mt. Fuji and Kilimanjaro, the Zy Movement Foundation has reached unprecedented heights, showing that differently abled kids can conquer their own mountains. Earlier in March 2019, EO Shanghai partnered with the foundation for a climb up the Great Wall, attracting 17 differently abled children and over 100 volunteers. The metaphorical mountains that children like Zy face daily are not easy ones, but they are becoming easier to tackler as the Zy Movement Foundations gains more and more momentum.
For details on how to support and join the Zy Movement foundations efforts, you can follow them on their official Facebook. Their website contains more details on what they have done in the past, and the mountains they have conquered.