“Kumusta! or, ‘hello!’ in the Philippines, where the Lim family travelled over 7,500 miles to DeSmet, South Dakota to make one incredible difference.
“They came from the Philippines, and they have blessed our community with their experiences in life, with their medical knowledge. They are really the first ones that will step up and help anyone. And so, even though they’re not native South Dakotas, they have roots here and they are adored by, by the community,” said Abi Van Regenmorter.
Abi Van Regenmorter is the Superintendent of DeSmet Public Schools. She, along with other community leaders I met with, were excited to tell “On the Road” about the Lim family.
“They’re doing everything they can to make our community and our world a better place. And they expect zero recognition whatsoever,” said Abi Van Regenmorter.
At first, these DeSmet community leaders focused their comments about 14-year-old Willem Lim, who will be a freshman at DeSmet High School.
“I’ve been in DeSmet eight years and since Willem was a first grader, he has just had the attitude and drive of an adult. And he makes our school a better place. He lifts his classmates up, and he just brings a level of energy,” said Abi Van Regenmorter.
Willem is active in Drama, Band, the Family, Career Community Leaders of America organization, basketball and so much more.
“Nothing holds him back,” said Abi Van Regenmorter. “When he comes off the bench or when he’s on the floor, it is a spark for the rest of the team. And he gets after the rebounds and he is diving after the ball and he is working hard for the entire team,” said Abi Van Regenmorter.
“Willem, I know, it’s obviously you’ve got a challenge with, physically. Can you talk about that please?” asked Mike Huether.
“I don’t think anyone should look at it as a disability. I think, it’s, I don’t think it’s a hindrance to ask for people for help, like your friends, your family members. It’s, I think, it’s more of like an advantage kind of,” said Willem Lim. “When you’re like… asking someone for help you get… you get to know them a little better. You know, you get to get closer to them.”
Willem is certainly proud to be from DeSmet and to be a Bulldog. “Everyone just treats me the same really. It doesn’t matter that my hand is missing, oh… and or like I was born somewhere else or anything, or I look differently. And they just treat me like one, like I’m their friend, and yeah,” said Willem Lim.
“A DeSmet Bulldog,” said Mike Huether.
“DeSmet Bulldog, yeah,” said Willem Lim.
Willem’s Mom and Dad have had their own powerful journey. Dr. Lance and Dr. Ruth Lim are from Cebu City in the Philippines. They graduated from the same medical school there in 1992.
“It was actually the most depressing times in our lives. One of the darkest times because again, we’re you know, since we, you know, we pass the United States Licensure Exam. So, we’re looking for places in the United States who will accept us for you know, for training,” said Dr. Lance Lim.
After sending hundreds of applications and a bevy of prayers, they came to America and trained in various big cities such as Brooklyn, Pittsburg and Boston. And yep, you guessed it, they ended up in small down DeSmet in January 2002. “In reality, we could have stayed here only three years and we could have gone anywhere else in the United States. But we ended up staying here because we loved it,” said Dr. Lance Lim.
“We ended up liking it, so let’s just stay,” said Dr. Ruth Lim.
From the beginning, Dr. Lance felt right at home. “You just build a lot of roots here. And we… I… to me, I’m a farm boy at heart to be honest. Even though I was, I grew up in a town of 3-million people,” said Dr. Lance Lim.
So did Dr. Ruth.
“It feels good to, growing up in a big city, and then, you move into your first apartment in DeSmet and your neighbor knocks and brings you a pie,” said Dr. Ruth Lim.
“Yeah, so that’s Americana. It’s very… I don’t think you can find that in a big city, you know,” said Dr. Lance Lim.
“But you found it in DeSmet. What kind of pie was it?” asked Mike Huether.
“Apple,” answered Dr. Ruth Lim.
“America,” said Mike Huether.
“America,” said Dr. Ruth Lim.
Dr. Lance, Dr. Ruth and Willem are making a big difference in DeSmet and in the surrounding area, such as Wessington Springs and Huron, in so many important ways.
“They just bring love and passion in everything that they do. And we’ve learned so much from them from their experiences and from their travels. And, and they’re so free to share those experiences and not in a way that is judgmental by any means but just as a way to bring the world to us that live in DeSmet,” said Abu Van Regenmorter.
America and DeSmet have embraced the Lim family and they want to do whatever they can to pay it forward. “The United States as a whole has given up, had given us so much. And to us, it’s giving back to the community and it makes it so much easier, you know, giving back especially in small towns. Because, you know everybody, and everybody kind of knows you,” said Dr. Lance Lim.
I was so inspired by what I found “On the Road” in DeSmet. The life lesson was a valuable one and Superintendent Abi relayed it well. “Small town KELOLAND is a fit for anyone. And it doesn’t matter if you grow up on an island in the Philippines, or if you grew up down the road in South Dakota,” said Abi Van Regenmorter. “I really think the lesson is that, we love our neighbors and we’re judgment free and we, we welcome those that are different from us and have different experiences,” said Abi Van Regenmorter.
Dr. Ruth Lim provides care at the James Valley Community Health Center in Huron, South Dakota, while Dr. Lance Lim serves at the Jerauld County Community Health Center in Wessington Springs, as well as, in Desmet, Woonsocket and Lake Preston. All those communities are lucky to have them.