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March 13, 2010

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Cheering test-tube quake baby

Losing her 19-year-old son in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake was devastating to Liu Hongying, a farmer in her 40s in Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County.

And while the grieving goes on, today she holds her two-month-old daughter in her arms, a test-tube baby, the first born in the province since the quake.

"I'm too old to bear another child, but thanks to the local government and caring people, my family can have a new baby," says Liu.

"All I want is that in the future, she can study well and repay society."

Among the 68,712 people confirmed dead in the earthquake on May 12, 2008, 5,335 were students.

To date, 2,726 women who lost children in the quake have gotten pregnant and 1,489 babies have been born.

The central government allocated 100 million yuan (US$14.6 million) for family planning funds to support women who want to get pregnant again.

Mothers who are still anguishing and suffering economically are also being helped.

On March 2, around 500,000 yuan (US$73,236), together with skin care products, was donated by L'Oreal (China) Co Ltd, the French cosmetics firm, to 200 needy quake mothers.

All the women, with an annual income of less than 650 yuan, are all from Beichuan, one of the worst-hit areas.

The donation titled "Love and the Future" was made at a ceremony at the elementary school in Leigu Town and supported by the China Population Welfare Foundation.

"This kind of donation is emotionally comforting and financially helpful," says Yan Wenzhuang, secretary-general of the foundation.

"The effort to spread and commit to charitable causes is especially precious. We hope more enterprises will take part in the post-quake reconstruction."

Jin Shaorong, a shop keeper who lost her husband in the quake, says she would pay her two daughters' tuition fee with the 2,500 yuan she received from the donation.

"I don't want to mention the past. It's too heartbreaking," Jin says who lives at a friend's home with her daughters, one 12 and one five years old.

"I'll do my best to give my girls an education."

Qiu Mingrong, 27, has a six-year-old child. Though she is still young, her face has aged because of the quake and many years of hardship before.

"Our house is gone. My husband does part-time jobs and I never have makeup," says Qiu, who received skin care products.

"Life is tough, but we'll try to make it through with help from others."

The donation is part of L'Oreal China's reconstruction assistance, themed "Love and the Future." It has donated 9 million yuan and relief materials worth 8 million yuan.

The company is helping in reconstruction and building of earthquake-resistant school buildings.

"Reconstruction has started to pay off, but we cannot overlook the mothers who are still enduring hardship," says Paolo Gasparrini, chief executive officer of L'Oreal China.

"With our donation we aim to rekindle their hopes for a beautiful life with renewed determination and confidence. We also hope it will focus social attention on these mothers.

"We look forward to contributing to reconstruction in quake-hit areas."

Looking at the two-month-old test-tube baby in her mother's arms gives one hope for the future.


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