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January 19, 2010

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Angel Mamas spread their wings to save poor children

AFTER feeding her one-year-old adopted daughter, 29-year-old Jin Limiao passes the child to the ayi and rushes out to visit her hospitalized three-year-old "son" Xunxun.

The boy, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was abandoned by his parents in 2007 and found by an elderly couple who took him in. The couple, both in their 70s, spent all their pension of 20,000 yuan (US$2,930) on medical treatment.

Xunxun and the elderly couple live in Jieshou City, Anhui Province, but he is now in Shanghai for medical treatment, thanks to mothers who call themselves Angel Mamas.

When Jin and other mothers in Shanghai and Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, heard about the boy in online reports, they were so moved that they donated thousands of yuan for his treatment. They found the best doctors in Shanghai for him.

Jin and other mothers belong to Angel Mamas, a volunteer charity organization that funds medical treatment for orphans and children from poor families. It is a registered charity in China.

All members are loving mothers and fathers, all Netizens, who over the years donated money for good causes. In 2005 they formed their own organization Angel Mamas.

The group has around 30 core members in China and overseas. They come from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou (Guangdong Province), Chengdu (Sichuan Province), Xi'an (Shaanxi Province) and the United States.

They publicize stories about needy children, raise funds for medical treatment and search for the most appropriate treatments.

So far, Angel Mamas have helped around 400 children. In 2008 the organization received the China Charity Award.

Angel Mama Jin is a stay-at-home mom with a 10-year-old son and a one-year-old adopted daughter.

She is one of around 10 core members in Angel Mama's Shanghai branch. The women, ranging in age from their 20s to 40s, rush around whenever there are kids in need of help.

"All the Angel Mamas participate because they care from their heart," says Xu Jin, a 40-year-old mother with a seven-year-old son, who is a founding member of Angel Mamas in Shanghai.

Xu is also the vice general manager of a technology development company in neighboring city of Wuxi.

All Angel Mamas have their own children, and as parents they sympathize with unknown children who need help.

"We can feel the pain of these kids just as we feel the pain of our own children," says Xu. "It is something that you may not know until you have become a parent."

In late 2007, Angel Mamas rallied around a three-year-old girl, Ning Jing, who suffered from brain cancer. She came from a small rural town in Anhui Province where most experts gave her just three months to live, even after surgery.

The mothers were divided over whether they should try to save Ning. Four women, including Xu, insisted on donating money for surgery and became founding members of the Shanghai branch.

As if through a miracle, Ning survived and is fairly healthy today, living in Wuxi and taking regular treatments of traditional Chinese medicine.

Xu says the Angel Mamas insisted on helping because of their admiration for Ning's parents. The little girl has a healthy twin brother, but the parents insisted on trying to save her, whatever the cost.

"It is common for a rural family in China to give up a girl, especially when she is seriously ill," says Xu, "but her parents sold everything they had to save her, and they always gave the best food to Ning Jing, even if it was only a bowl of potato slices."

The father works two part-time jobs a day to support the family in Wuxi. Some loving Angel Mamas continue to sponsor the family, providing necessities and funds occasionally.

Of course, not every kid is as lucky as Ning. Despite all the best efforts and surgery, some children die.

"We have no regrets, as long as we know that we've all tried our best," says Xu.

To ensure that children can receive fast medical treatment, Angel Mamas reached a cooperation agreement last October with the Shanghai Children's Medical Center. The center provides a green channel for the kids sent by the Angel Mamas, so that they can receive expedited diagnose and treatment.

The center has provided surgery for congenital heart disease, hydrocephalus and facial deformities, such as cleft lip and palate.

Last year the Angel Mamas received 100,000 yuan as a donation from a woman abroad and used it to set up an emergency fund with the hospital. In this way treatment can be provided immediately, before the Mamas have raised funds. Subsequent donations replenish the fund.

Helping needy children involves more than raising funds and identifying necessary medical care. Negotiating with parents or guardians can be difficult.

"Helping kids from poor families is different from helping orphans," says Jin, the Angel Mama in Shanghai. "They have parents as guardians who have a say on providing treatment or discontinuing medical care - and we can do nothing about this."

Sometimes parents agonize but decide they cannot handle endless nursing and medical fees, so they reject treatment, knowing their child will die. Some parents pocket the donated money and flee, abandoning their child.

"At first we were very passionate, open-handed and gave everything we could," says Xu, "but we became frustrated by the actions of some irresponsible parents and realized that we should be more cautious and rational when helping."

To make sure the funds are used for medical treatment, the Angel Mamas have opened a donation account that can only be accessed by the hospital and used to pay for medical care. No longer are the funds paid directly to low-income parents.

Angel Mamas plan to cooperate with rural hospitals, but they send volunteers to find out whether the kids really need help and whether their parents are really committed to treatment.

"A guiding principle for us is whether the whether the parents have already exhausted their funds for the children's treatment," says Jin.

"We have to ensure that the money will only be used to save the kids, rather than make their parents' life easy," says Xu. "The parents should earn their own living, not live off donations intended for their ailing children."

For more information about Angel Mamas, visit To donate or provide help, contact Jin Limiao at


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