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Ivy League Student Helping A Young Mother and Her Special Needs Child Out of Homelessness

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Jay Wilke


Dear Friends:


I am writing to you, as a fellow citizen, to appeal to your sense of compassion. I would be extremely grateful if you would spare me a few short moments in the midst of your busy day to consider the contents of this letter and, if they move you, think about making a donation to help an ordinary American family fallen on hard times through no fault of their own.


For the last threepast 3 years, I have been enrolled as a graduate student at Columbia University. Despite a volatile economy I have been able to earn the means to fund my studies and cover my own living costs (through working, scholarships, grants and student loans). I am one of the lucky ones.Before coming here, I worked and attended graduate school elsewhere. Over time, I have managed to also save some money from the jobs I have had. With the economy being volatile and the job market being so unpredictable, I needed to have a little something to rely on until becoming settled. This crowd-sourced funding plea is for donations that will allow me to help my homeless sister and her 2-year old special needs son. I am writing to you now to ask for your help, not for myself, but for my homeless sister and her two year old son who has special needs.


Several years agoSince becoming an adult, my sister hadwas been advised by her doctor that she would never be able to have children, due to an extremely serious case of uterine fibroids. She tried various treatments and surgeries, including resorting to surgery for the fibroids, but the condition persisted. In 2010, despite this diagnosisThree years ago, my sister – who had previously worked in healthcare – found out she discovered that she was, indeed fact, pregnant,. For her, and for her whole family, and it felt like a miracle to our family, and we were overjoyed. Within weeks of finding out, however, my sister began havingto experience complications. She had developed gestational diabetes, and simultaneously began to suffered thyroid issues simultaneously, and. Sshe was medicated and bedridden for most of the gestational periodremainder of her high-risk pregnancy, during which time she also gained significant weight due to her inability to leave her bed. She also gained a significant amount of weight, since she could not go to a gym or be very active during the pregnancy.


In 2011, the newest addition to our family was born and everyone was cheerful! Despite all these challenges, in April 2011 she gave birth to a son who, now aged two, means the world to her. As you can readily imagine, we her family were relieved, thrilled and overwhelmed with joy.


Unfortunately, the worst of her troubles were yet to come. My sister'sthe fiancé that had supported my sister unexpectedly ended his voluntary contributions to her and her new baby and disappeared from the scene. Having no support, she had to relocate to my mother’s small apartment (which is no more than 500 square feet, and cannot easily accommodate two grown women and a child). As my nephew grew up, we became concerned In the past year or more, we realized that my nephew wasthat he was not meeting the usual growth and development milestones. Nearing 2 years old, he was not crawling or walking. A medical evaluation confirmed our suspicion that he has special needs, and may well be autisticAfter having him evaluated, we learned that my nephew is a special needs child who is most likely to be diagnosed as autistic. He was the recipient ofrequired physical therapy to learn how to walk, which was followed byand then speech therapy, because his speech is severely delayed. Both were successful. Three months ago, my nephewhe started having seizures, and we took him needed to see a neurologist, because he had started sporadically having seizures. The scans showed unusually high levels of brain activity ('spikes’), which triggers the seizures (the professionals referred to it as ‘spikes’). He is now medicated for that, toorequires medication to manage that condition too.


Though my sister, like any responsible parent, felt knew that she needed the need to be with her baby, she was unable to support herself. As a former healthcare worker this  and that was very difficult, becauseas she hasd always been so self-sufficient and proud of her independence. She managed to apply for work and she received three full-time job offers within a week or two, but shortly after beginning to work, a scheduling conflict between my sister and mom caused my sister to stop working. Suddenly, mom – who generally supported the idea of my sister working – became less flexible about caring for her grandson while my sister worked she was forced to leave her job due to her inability to secure adequate childcare provision, given her limited means.


As her financial situation became increasingly untenable, my sister began to experience additional pressure from our mother, who wouldMom, who I applaud for taking my sister into her home, unfortunately became more criticizing of my sister over time and she criticize and belittled her constantly, complaining about her weight and accusing her of being responsible – about everything, from gaining so much weight during the pregnancy to being responsible for my nephew’s medical problems. Although she meant well, considering this critical approach to be an example of 'tough love,' the damage she did to my increasingly fragile sister was extreme. She would speak some of the most painful words when talking to me about my sister, while my sister was in her presence. She considered this tough-love approach to be helpful, but it was incredibly destructive. My sister She would call me in tears, expressing to me howtelling me that life would have been less challenging if she had decided toon give the baby up for adoption or to have aborted her pregnancy altogethereven had she terminated her pregnancy, but she loves her son very much and cannot imagine being without him. No longer welcome at my mother's, and lacking the wherewithal to pay her own way, my sister became homeless. As a result of these events, my sister made the painful decision that becoming homeless with her young son was a much better option than suffering through any further abuse from mom. Since then, she has been wandering from househome -to -househome, seeking temporary refuge from ex-coworkers and elderly people we knew while we were growing up. She does not stay in close contact with anyone in our family.


Being enrolled at Columbia, I am 600 miles away, but I have always been supportive toof my sister by, providing a listening ear,  and providing suggestionsoffering advice when askedand doing my best to effect a reconciliation with our mother. The two of us have grown up together, always best friends, who as children used to fend for one another. Now, however, our paths have diverged, and Our situations are much different, but she was always my best friend, because we grew up together and often had to fend for one another in a variety of situations. Although we have enjoyed a good relationship, I believe my sister feels a sense of resentment toward me because of my education. When she is being belittled by our parents, she is constantly reminded that “your little brother attended an Ivy League school,” and graduated with two degrees” or reminded that I have earned a master’s degree and that while she has yet to finish any college at all. Whenever I accomplish anything, from winning a scholarship to getting an internship, my mothermom makes it her business to say things like “…your little brother just got a new scholarship for his research. I’m so proud of that boy.”hold it over her daughter's head. My sister wants to feel happy for me, but finds it difficult when she i’s so downtrodden and demoralized by our parents.


My sister and her baby are now homeless. When I learned about thisnews of their situation reached me, I dispatchedsent an e-mail to let her know that my intention was to earn enough money to rentacquire an apartment and pay the expenses upfront for a full year (rent, utilities, etc.), for her and the baby. During that year, she would be able to feel settled, unfree from pressured, and independent, and she could return to providingresume my nephew’s much needed special education services – which he is not receiving while they remain transient which, for the moment, he is unable to receive. She just needs a break. I just wanted to offerprovide her some relief.


Just before making that promise to my sister, a friend of mine had introduced me to the stock market, something about which I have never known much. I was advised that I could just place my own savings in the market and then it could earn money on a daily basis. I knew that I could not afford to just give her my savings, because I am nearing graduation and I will need the money I have saved in these years to support myself while I find work and to start my new professional life. However, I was very happy about the idea of giving her every single dollar I would gain from the stock market. Well, this is where the story gets good. My savings alone could not cover the costs for the three of us – especially as I am nearing graduation, and will shortly face the full cost of beginning an independent professional life myself. I saw a way out: to invest what I had in stocks and pay the dividends directly to my sister to help her get back on her feet.


After the first few days, I was feeling very good about the market because. I had earned a couplea couple thousand dollars., and I figured that the trend would continue and that I would have enough to achieve mythe goal of $9,000 within a couple of weeks. To note: FacebookAt that time, stock in the social networking website Facebook seemed to be accelerating nicely, and I felt confident about the company, so I placed all my money on that one stock option. Unfortunately, aswhen the government shutdown became more of a realityhit last month, the value of my Facebook's stocks declined significantly. In one day, I had lost approximately $14,000. TheThe brokerage company advised me to sell the stocks at the cheaper rate since they could perhaps lose even more value the next day, so I took the loss and sold them. Over the next few days, I made a few other trades, trying to gain back my money. Well, I have now lost a little over $19,000, which includes my savings, my scholarship funds, tuition money for next semester, money borrowed from the bank, and some money from another family member who had no idea what I was trying to gain money for but trusted that I would not lose her money anyway.


The moral of this story could be that no good deed goes unpunished, but I suppose I am much happier to know that my heart was in a good place. Rather than exposing myself to further financial risks, I just want to close mythe stock market account. I am in a much worse position to help my sister now, and I wish that I had just taken the money from my initial savings rather than attempting to play in the stock market arenaa game I did not fully understand. If I could take back that time, I would. My only comfort is that I meant well. Anyway, mMy little nephew is such a joy. He has special needs, but he seemed so happy the last time I saw him. He and my sister just need a home – maybe just an apartment for one year – to become settled and just let life happen without any unreasonable pressures and demands. Therefore, I am turning to this crowd-sourced funding effort in hopes to facilitate thatappealing to you to help me set things straight. My sister still needs help, and I am no longer in a position to offer it. This is my fault – I fault I accept and take full responsibility for – but it would be wrong for her to suffer further on account of my mistakes. 


I am setting my fundraising goal totarget at $19,000. Half of all funds received will immediately go to my sister and her situation, and the remainder will be used to recover just half of what I ended up losing. My willingness to take this loss is just my way of taking responsibility; although I will be writing a letter to Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, to ask for some relief since I had invested that money in his company. Maybe out of compassion, he will donate to this cause. Perhaps he will never even see my letter, since I am certain that he is a very busy man!


MyThis story, as I have presented it here, is deliberately detailed, but I wanted to provide all of the relevant details. I wanted you to have the facts in order that you can make an informed decision about whether this is a cause you would consider supporting. I have consciously omitted the names of my family members, since I have not gained permission to identify them in this forumhere. Please know that this is a genuine request aimed at helping my sister to feel normalized again. She has her problems, but nNobody deserves to be dehumanized, as she and her son have been. The consequence of the type of abuse described here is oftentimes suicide or other self-destructive behaviors, but my sister is a strong and a brave woman, and I feel lucky to have this opportunity to intervene on her behalf. In order to do that, I am appealing to my fellow Americans. If you have ever been touched by pregnancy complications, intra-family abuse, gestational diabetes, autism (special education), brain spikes, physical therapy, speech therapy, or homelessness, then I ask for your gift.


Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Further information can be supplied on request.





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