The Kwok Family
Isobelle, 18, and Danyan, 16, have experienced a childhood unlike that of their peers.
For over a decade, they have grown up in a world profoundly shaped by their dad’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a result of his military service.
Isobelle’s introduction to PTSD occurred one night when she was just eight years old. Hiding in her bedroom, she eagerly waited for her dad to pass by in the hallway, ready to innocently scare him with a playful “boo!” She suddenly found herself on the ground, his foot pressing against her chest.
Danyan’s first encounter with PTSD took place at age eight during a family visit to a theme park. Excitedly bouncing up and down, he tried to get his dad’s attention with an enthusiastic wave of his hand and inadvertently hit him in the process. This accident triggered a terrifying chain of events that ended with Danyan being lifted by his head and coming face-to-face with his dad’s clenched fist.
The siblings understand how trauma causes PTSD and have learned to adapt their behaviour when necessary. They understand the triggers and how situations can escalate. They know that when their friends come over to play, they must explain their situation beforehand. They know why their dad has nightmares that make him scream.
In late 2019 Isobelle and Dayan’s dad attempted to take his own life. It was the fourth suicide attempt that mum Leesa knew about.
“They say that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, Legacy is our village,” she said.
“Our family survived that last suicide attempt because of our village.”
During the month that her partner was in the hospital, Leesa recalls the support she received from those around her, including Legacy volunteers, also known as Legatees.
“I didn’t cook a single meal in the month he was in hospital. Meals were prepared and delivered by friends, work colleagues and Legatees,” Leesa said.
“I didn’t drive the kids to a single activity, but they still got to every activity and training session because they were driven by friends and Legatees.
“I had people checking on me and watching over the kids constantly. Even though we felt it at times, we were never alone,” she added.
Legacy works diligently to provide the necessary support and resources to ensure that our veterans’ families can thrive despite the challenges they face. Our primary goal is to ensure that their children are not left behind or disadvantaged in any way because of their parent’s service.
Legacy has made it possible for Isobelle and Danyan to attend their preferred Catholic school by covering the cost of tuition fees, ensuring they receive quality education and alleviating some of the pressure for Leesa. This financial support also extends to a tutor who assists the children with their schoolwork, enabling them to excel academically.
Isobelle’s passion for Tae Kwon Do was nurtured and financially supported by Legacy, resulting in her remarkable achievement of winning a silver medal at the national championships.
Amidst their challenging journey, annual Legacy camps and regular outings hold a special place in the hearts of Isobelle and Danyan. These events serve as a significant opportunity for them to forge meaningful connections with other children who share similar experiences and challenges.
“They form strong bonds of friendship and their support network with the kids at camp because they are all affected by service,” Leesa said.
Leesa also fondly recalls a time when Legacy gifted Danyan a bicycle for his twelfth birthday. It was a particularly difficult period for their family, marked by a recent suicide attempt, and Leesa had forgotten to arrange a gift.
“Legacy made sure he didn’t miss out. He rode that same bike to his first job last year,” she said.
In gratitude for the support received, Leesa actively engages with Legacy, participating in various fundraisers and events. She courageously shares her personal journey whenever she gets the opportunity, spreading awareness and inspiring others.
“Our kids have copped a raw deal,” she said.
“They didn’t serve. They weren’t injured in service. They don’t have a service-related illness. But they have sacrificed a large part of their childhood because of service, and the only recognition of that sacrifice is the support from Legacy.”