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November 4, 2009

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Helping kids with heart problems

IMAGINE watching your child turn blue every two to three days, seeing that he or she cannot keep up with other children - no running, jumping, swinging around the playground - this is life for a child with congenital heart disease. ?

Left untreated, congenital heart disease can drastically reduce a child's quality of life: their body weakens and they fall behind in their education.?

For China's poorer families the disease causes great stress. Incomes are halved as one parent takes time off to care for their child, leaving some families to survive on as little as 1,000 yuan (US$146) a month.?And the expensive operations - ranging from 20,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan - are out of reach for many families.

But expatriate and local women in Shanghai have banded together to boost quality of life for children with congenital heart disease - with the annual charity carnival this Sunday.?

"We allow children to be children - healthy enough to play, go to school and not have to worry?about working for their family's survival," says carnival organizer Michelle Teope.?

The carnival started in 2002 and along the way has raised nearly 1.6 million yuan, paying for 32 operations.?

What began as a good old-fashioned arts and crafts bazaar has grown into a spectacular display of clowns, acrobats, magicians and kung fu shows.?

Teope says the day is completely dedicated to children with games, face-painting and kids' crafts. ?

In its first year when it raised 40,000 yuan, the charity supported children with renal failure and paid health insurance to some poor families.?

Now in its eighth year, the charity has moved its focus to heart disease and its target is much higher: 300,000 yuan is expected to be raised at Sunday's carnival, paying for six operations.?

Up to 900 people are expected to attend, coming from all over Shanghai.?

The six needy children have been selected, one girl and five boys, ranging from a newborn to five-year-olds. They come from single-income families earning less than 2,000 yuan a month and from families where both parents are unemployed.

After the carnival, there's a luncheon with the child beneficiaries and their families.

Teope says they often hear thankful families express sentiments like, "Now our child is healthy, we can go back to work and have a normal family life."

Having a child with such a serious and costly condition can cause families, especially poor ones, to take drastic steps.

Sometimes parents can foresee the stress and expense and abandon their baby.

Fourteen-year-old Shi Yufeng, who suffered congenital heart disease, was abandoned by his parents in 1995.

His grandparents and uncle took him in, but he is yet to be reunited with his parents - not even his grandparents know where their own children are.

Shi asked his uncle why he couldn't be like the other children, and last year - thanks to the Shanghai Child Heart Foundation and the Charity Carnival committee - his wish was granted. He is now back to school and in the third grade.

It is stories like this that Teope says touch the hearts of the group. It is why women from countries such as Germany, France, Japan, South Korea and Philippines have come together to help the children of China.

Charity Carnival

Date: November 8, 10:30am-4:30pm

Venue: Millenium Hongqiao Hotel, 2588 Yan'an Rd W.

Tickets: 80 yuan on November 8, 60 yuan pre-sale, children free?

For more information, contact Michelle Teope at 1391-6368-878, English and Chinese.


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