The word EXO-L (fandom name of the megastar K-Pop group EXO), is synonymous with love, unity and most significantly, benevolence. The Indian EXO fans are known to host fundraising projects on the members’ birthdays to raise large amounts of funds for various causes and charities.
However, this time they outdid their previous contributions to celebrate a new beginning in one of the members’ life. Thus, creating an initiative which will tug at the toughest of heartstrings.
It was an exulting day for the fandom on the 29th of April when the member Chen (Real Name: Kim Jong Dae), announced that he was blessed with the arrival of a baby girl. This is his firstborn with his wife, whom he wed in a private ceremony in January.
Manipur EXO-Ls are known for their ungrudging charitable contributions. To celebrate the news of this joyous arrival of life, they decided to raise a life. Together, EXOL Manipur vowed to remove barriers for a 9-year-old girl, the same way EXO’s music transcended all barriers to inspire an endearment within these Indian fans. The child is befittingly christened by the fans (fondly known as “Aeris” by the band members), as Aerisana, construing as “Aeri’s child”. The fans resolved to raise funds to support her education all the way up to college.
The call for funds was given on the 6th of September. In an incredible feat, EXO-Ls unitedly raised a whopping 65 thousand within a span of 10 days. An EXO-L went to greet Aerisana with clothes, books, school supplies and snacks after the fundraiser.
The project, named “Once Upon A Time: A Guardian’s Tale” resonates that Chen has been nothing short of a guardian for the fandom. In his name, they have gathered under their banner of “we are one” to be guardian angels for the child. The project comprises four elements:
- The fundraiser
- a capsule of letters
- a youtube video collaboration with art/stories
- a comic strip revealed on Chen’s birthday.
Initially, they decided that the funds will be accessible to her 10 years later for college. However, they felt that to reach the stage of eligibility for a college education, she needs to sustain herself well through school. Thus, the funds collected will be dispersed to her every month in the sum of 2000. With the 65 thousand that they have collected, their grail is secure for the next 2.5 years.
The Thought Process
Speaking about why they decided to choose this particular child from Manipur, aside from it being their home, they said, “In Manipur, there are cases of abandoned children who are in facility centres waiting to be adopted.” This echoes the careful thought put into choosing a child that truly needs and benefits from the aid.
The fans didn’t stop at raising funds. If the initiative wasn’t benign by itself, they compiled a time capsule letter book titled “Once Upon A Chen: A Guardian’s Tale”. The book contains personal letters written for Aerisana by the fans. The preface of the book is astutely written in the form of a fairy tale. It profoundly encapsulates Chen’s legacy, his message and the purpose of this venture for Aerisana. The capsule will be gifted to her on her 15th birthday, 6 years from now. Read it here:
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We will be gifting Aerisana this letter time capsule book when she is 15, which is 6 years from now! This book is a compilation of all the letters sent in by EXO-Ls! Since the letters are personal, we will be sharing just the preface of the book! Thank you @alien_sonyeo for writing this beautiful preface!!! #AngelChenDay
They also illustrated a very meaningful comic strip on the occasion of Chen’s 28th birthday.
Through this ongoing project, fans have pledged to come together every year to raise funds for Aerisana. They plan to raise finances for the child’s college fund on Chen’s birthday.
EXO-Ls describe Aerisana as a bright and cheerful girl. She truly is a child raised by the stars, that are the fans in Chen’s universe. She will grow up to be a strong, independent, successful woman, and will stand as a testimony of unconditional love.
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A child is a gift from God. It’s neither an accident nor a consequence. 2020 is really special for our Chen! He is now the proud father of a baby girl! To celebrate his life, this year, we decided to help a little 9 year old girl! Manipur EXO-Ls came together to give her a nickname. We fondly call her “Aerisana” We received immense support this time!! Why? Because we are united than ever to support and love Chen! Yaayyy! We raised ₹65000/- We went to meet Aerisana! We got her clothes, books, school supplies and snacks for her! She is a cute, bright girl!! When we first started out with this project, our plan was to open a fixed deposit for Aerisana. Which she can withdraw it 10 years later for her college! Along the way, we realised that to reach that “10 years later”future, she need to go through this present “NOW”! Therefore, we are going to help her out with her school needs. We are in the process of opening a bank account for her. And we will be sending her ₹2000 for the next 2.5 years!!! But we are not going to stop here! Each year, we pledge to come together and raise even more to help her out! We will watch her grow to become a strong and independent woman! Thank You “THADOI-LEMBA”Fans!! Thank you for becoming a big part of this project! @pama_devi @wari__collection Thank You to the staffs of Sangai Healthcare & Research Centre,Uripok! Thank you!!! Thank You @arbintonjam ! Thank you for your donation! Thank You EXO! For inspiring us every moment and for teaching us to spread love and goodness! Like EXO, Like EXO-L!! Chen, Happy Birthday!! Thank you for everything!! And last but not the least, this 💓 is for you all, EXO-Ls!!! Thank you all!!!! Manipur EXO-Ls Cheers!!! #exo #AngelChenDay
The EXO-Ls are unique in their manifestation of the fandom slogan “we are one”, translating to the unity of the members and the fans. EXO-Ls go beyond human generosity and teach the world the true meaning of being a fan. They do not keep the joy, love, messages that their idols inspire, to themselves. But rather resonate it and instill it in others, changing the world into a happy place. They stand as torchbearers representing the entire Kpop community’s omnipresent nobility and goodwill.
After publishing the above article, we were swarmed with good samaritans wanting to know more about Aerisana and the campaign.
It is imperative to us that 9-year-old Aerisana’s privacy is protected for her security, hence we refrained from adding her pictures previously. However, we want you all to get to know little Aeri better and develop a doting bond with her.
Thus, we now bring you blurred pictures, accounts of EXO-Ls’ meet with Aeri and more details regarding the campaign.
Aerisana’s father has passed away and the child was abandoned by her mother. Aerisana’s 75-year-old grandmother is her sole caretaker and guardian. The family’s sustenance comes from the meagre income her grandmother earns from doing household chores for the neighbouring residences. Aeri’s grandmother is doing her best to look after her but her gradually deteriorating health is making it difficult. It will only be a matter of time before she is shifted to an orphanage.
We spoke to EXO-Ls who visited Aeri and recounted the visit for us with a heavy heart.
“When we first visited her, her grandmother received us warmly and asked Aerisana to get a ‘phak’ (woven mat) for us to sit on.” “Aerisana whispered to her grandmother indicating that they did not have one. We pretended not to hear it in order to not make the grandmother feel sorry.” “We tried very hard to hide our emotions at the plightful atmosphere unfolding before us. Aerisana is more deprived than children in orphanages.”
They carried books, toys, snacks and even a new dress for her which she eagerly adorned (picture below). “We will visit her every month and document the visit.”
EXO-Ls tried to open a bank account for her so she has direct access to the funds. However, to open an account, she needs a PAN card which she can’t avail till she’s 18 years of age.
The team is looking into other available options, but the restrictions due to the pandemic are gruelling this process. Hence, until the bank account is set up, EXO-Ls are personally visiting Aerisana every month to give her the money, along with additional individual donations like books, clothes, etc. The next visit is scheduled for the 27th of October, and they will be documenting it along with future visits through pictures, videos, etc.