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Coming to the aid of AIDS orphans

AIDS orphans and other affected children welcome expat students from the Shanghai American School who have brightened their lives with donations and kindness. Sam Riley reports.

Expat students have seen firsthand how the money they raised over one year is making a difference in the lives of AIDS orphans.

Twenty-one students from the Shanghai American School and Tianjin made their second annual trip over the weekend to Fuyang City in Anhui Province to provide much-needed resources to an orphanage. The home is run by the Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation.

The students had spent the year fundraising and collecting donations of clothing, blankets and other items to support the orphanage, which provides shelter and medical services to orphans who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

AOS was founded in 2003 and began its work by providing an HIV-positive child with a physical examination in Beijing. It also provided pediatric anti-retroviral treatment. In the course of the year over 100 children were helped, and now support extends to more than 600 children.

Of these children, around 50 are HIV-positive and the rest are affected by HIV/AIDS because they come from families where one or both parents have the disease. Many people contracted the disease through unsafe blood collection practices and illegal sales in the 1990s.

The AOS children come from 500 separate families in over 50 villages in Anhui and Henan provinces.

The organization tries to help children remain with their families and to stay within their communities. It aims to build parental and community capacity and give financial, educational, medical and mental health support.

AOS founder and executive director Zhang Ying says the expat students visits throughout the year are a highlight for the children.

"It is heartening to see a group of international students so committed to this important cause," Zhang says. "The children enjoy receiving the students and look forward to their visits."

A junior at SAS, Lindsay Haskell is a founder of Teen Act for AIDS set up to coordinate efforts by international students to assist children affected by HIV/AIDS.

"AOS is providing critical services to AIDS orphans in China and TAA is pleased to be able to support them," says Haskell.

"This trip allows our TAA members, who represent 12 countries and regions, to witness firsthand the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic and the impact that our organization can have on the most innocent victims of the disease," Haskell adds.

Teens Act for AIDS has grown from a small group of international students in Tianjin to a student organization with chapters in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Founded in 2005, the organization raises awareness of the global AIDS epidemic and provides support to AIDS orphans in China and around the world.

The TAA chapters have held fundraisers throughout the school year and collected donations.

The students are supported by their schools that provide transport, logistical support and supervision for the visit to Fuyang.

Shanghai American School students take part in charity and community-based projects as part of their education program and high school Principal Alan Knobloch says the school was proud of student's dedication to fundraising for young people affected by AIDS.

"We are pleased to support our students as they travel to Fuyang and we are particularly proud of the Teens Act for AIDS group for their continued dedicationto helping AIDS orphansin China," he says.


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