KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City man is opening his heart to help a man in need, nearly 10,000 miles away.
Charley Hutto was introduced to Preman de Silva through email and Skype. De Silva lives in Sri Lanka and had a horrible accident in 2011. He fell under a moving train near his hometown in southern Sri Lanka.
He lost his legs, and his family and fiance abandoned him because of his disability.
"I was a lot of suffering, depression, staying in the bed all the time," de Silva said. "Thinking what can I do in my future? I lost my whole life before. I had no idea how I was going to go through with my life in the future."
Hutto supported de Silva through his hardships, which took an emotional and financial toll. De Silva lived with his elderly, ailing mother. They both had to make ends meet off her government pension, which was the equivalent of around $70 in the US. Since he lost his legs, de Silva hasn't had any job opportunities in Sri Lanka.
"Sometimes at the end of the month, they would be out of rice, so they'd just have to drink water for a day or two until they could buy more rice," said Hutto, who lives in Waldo said.
Hutto would send de Silva money when he could. One day over Skype, de Silva showed Hutto a greeting card he made. It featured elaborate swirls and designs, all made of paper. Hutto was in awe of its beauty and told de Silva he would sell the cards.
For that past six years, that's been the business plan.
De Silva makes cards, and Hutto sells them for $6 each in Kansas City, getting most of the clients through Facebook. All of the money is sent to de Silva.
"I took out my emotions and feelings in the paper with art," de Silva said.
De Silva describes himself as confident and stable now. He's made around $6,000 from the cards over the years. It's been enough for him to buy and build a home for him and his mother.
Hutto saw the payoff of de Silva's labor for himself when they met in person in January.
"I was just astounded," Hutto said. "He and his mom lived in a little concrete, cinder block house with a tin roof. When he rained it leaked. Now he's got a house with a regular roof on it, and white walls, and a veranda."
The things some might take for granted, like a roof, mean the world to de Silva.
It's all possible through a strong bond that withstands distance and creative greeting cards.
"I'm so happy. Kansas City people, thank you so much," de Silva said. "They appreciate so much. They like my cards and my talent. They don't look at my disability. They look at my talent. And I'm so very very proud of that and appreciate."
The Christmas season is de Silva's busiest time of the year. Each card takes him about two hours to make. If you want to place a card order, you can email Hutto at email@example.com with your request.