[August 23, 2013, Shanghai, China] Congenital heart disease is known as the number one birth defect and the biggest killer of children in China. Worldwide it was responsible for 300,000 deaths of children under the age of five in one year alone. Greatly concerned about this, Rotarians around the world have taken on the challenge by engaging Rotary and changing lives through the Gift of Life Program. Gift of Life is a Rotarian-based program that began in 1975 and to date has led to the saving of over 15,000 children from 67 countries. Nearly every day one child’s life is saved through this program.
As members of one of the world’s largest non-profit volunteer organizations, Rotarians have been achieving the Gift of Life objective of “Bringing Hope To Children That Have Only Known Despair” for the past 4 decades. This Rotarian-led program has helped to fund over $750 million dollars worth of surgeries and empowered doctors and nurses in their own countries to care for their own children.
The program sponsors life saving heart surgery by sending a team of surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals to remote areas of the country where children do not have access to the medical procedures necessary to save their lives.
In China alone, via the local Rotary Clubs of Shanghai and Beijing, 790 children have been saved and returned to their families to live long, productive, and healthy lives during the 10 years the Gift of Life program has been available here. Since many of the children in need of heart surgery live in rural areas, the two clubs raised funds to purchase two medical buses equipped with cardiac echo equipment.
In 2012, one of the medical vans was donated to the Hebei Children’s Hospital in Shijiazhuang to conduct screenings of children in Hebei twice a month. The other bus operates in the Henan rural areas. Last year the Henan bus made 42 trips to the countryside. In 2013, the bus is scheduled to travel every week and when needed, twice a week. These life-saving buses travel to villages equipped with cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, sonogram technicians, and nurses and doctors.
“As we all know that one child means the whole world to an individual family” said Ms. Tara Strunk, current board member and former fundraising chair of the Rotary Club of Shanghai. “Knowing that here in China we have been able to give this incredible gift of hope and life to so many children and families drives us on to do even more.”
Some of the quotes from the families who have been helped:
“We come from the countryside. We were under a lot of pressure and we have no money. Thank you very much to the kind people willing to help poor families with sick children like us.”
– A father of a boy diagnosed at 8 months old
”Thank you to all the kind people for helping us. You have saved my child. Now he can grow up healthily. Thank you!”
- A boy diagnosed at 1 month old
About Rotary International
Rotary is a global network of business and professional leaders. Rotary’s 1.2 million women and men of Rotary belong to more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. As volunteers, Rotary members have been serving the needs of communities worldwide since 1905. Rotary is one of the largest international humanitarian service organizations in the world. Through volunteer service, the women and men of Rotary build friendships and enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances. Participating in international service projects allows Rotary members to connect with people from around the world and promote cross-cultural understanding. Rotary clubs are nonpolitical and open to all cultures, races, and creeds.
About The Rotary Club of Shanghai
Re-chartered in 2006, The Rotary Club of Shanghai has been extremely active in China by supporting various charitable and social projects.
It is open to expats who are working in China. The club welcomes new members and volunteers. As always, the RSC is committed to providing services and resources to people in Shanghai and all over China that will improve their lives via the Gift of Life program. The Rotary of Shanghai Club was first founded in 1919 as part of Rotary International. It has no political or religious leanings and primarily relies on the financial donations and time of its members to implement community service programs throughout the world.
About Gift of Life
The Gift of Life program was founded by Rotary District 7250 with the collaboration of Rotary Districts and clubs around the world. The program has expanded and now has more than 71 local Gift of Life Rotarian-based programs in 71 countries on 5 continents. Through the dedication and donations from Rotarians, corporations, businesses, civic organizations, foundations, and individuals, GOL has coordinated and provided surgical missions in over 20 different countries. These programs are defined by the empowerment of doctors and nurses to care for their own children. Ongoing training, essential equipment acquisition and supplement supply programs have been implemented in these countries to ensure that children afflicted with congenital heart defects (CHDs) can be cared for on a sustainable and reliable basis.