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December 16, 2009

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Precious support for child surgery

FROM the hospitality industry to an art gallery and hundreds of volunteers, there's a groundswell of giving to a new charity raising funds for life-saving operations for orphans. Sam Riley reports.

It has been a big year for one of Shanghai's newest charities - Baobei - which is focused on providing life saving surgery to some of China's most vulnerable young orphan children.

Baobei means precious child in Chinese, and the charity was founded by Chinese and foreigners to raise money for life-saving neurological and gastro-intestinal surgery on infants and young children.

Since Baobei started in March last year, local businesses, foreign communities and individuals have swung their support behind it.

Last Thursday, the JW Marriot's lobby was converted into a makeshift gallery and 25,000 yuan (US$3,661) was raised for Baobei.

It was one of a number of recent fund-raising ventures that have helped fund surgeries. Each surgical procedure costs on average 42,000 yuan.

Despite the charity itself being in its infancy, it has already funded 55 vital surgeries that have changed the lives of 35 children in China.

The five-star hotel showcased artwork from the Fellini Gallery that was heavily reduced for the art auction. Mercuris Fine Wines also contributed support, providing drinks for the event.

As well as surgeries, the foundation also provides intensive post-operative care and therapy to ensure children make a full recovery.

Ann Kedl, Kelly Thompson, Emily Chen and Carol Hoag founded the organization that depends on private donations. The charity funds an average of three operations a month.

Hoag is Baobei's managing director and says the organization had grown quickly since it was established and now has more than 200 volunteers and a regular mailing list of more than 450 people.

"It has been incredible to us how willing people were even at such an early stage to put money behind us and to get involved," Hoag says.

"But we are saving lives and people can see it and touch it, they can go to the hospital or they can help the kids during after-care."

Baobei works with Dr Bao Nan and the Shanghai Children's Medical Center. Dr Bao donates his time to travel to orphanages to visit children in need and is one of China's foremost experts in pediatric neurosurgery.

In a tangible example on the day of the auction of the vital emergency work the foundation is involved in, a young infant was rushed into emergency surgery.

The girl had been born with gastroschsis, a congenital abdominal wall defect where the intestines and sometimes other organs develop outside the body.

"She is in ICU right now, they had her on a ventilator trying to revive her when she arrived at the hospital and that was three hours ago," Hoag says at the auction.

Despite the best efforts of surgeons, the child did not survive.

But many of the other children, particularly in gastro-intestinal cases, go on to make a full recovery and are highly adoptable.

"That's the foundation we want to be, we want to take the hard cases," Hoag says.

Most of the children treated are from Hunan or Anhui provinces and on average the foundation spends 126,000 yuan a month providing surgery. More than 90 percent of the money raised comes from individual donations.

The Shanghai community has provided strong support for the charity since its inception, generating 70 percent of its funds.

Most of the remainder is from donors in the United States.

JW Marriott General Manager John Webb says the hotel wants to provide a different kind of Christmas event to its clients than the usual Christmas-themed decorations.

The contemporary art exhibition and auction not only provided a vibrant and compelling display for the lobby but also fitted into the hotel's ongoing charitable activities, says Webb.

"As a part of Marriott 'Spirit to Serve' activities, the hotel staff is constantly involved in charity and community events to give something back to society," Webb says.

The hotel's biggest charity event of the year, its Marriott Charity Golf event including all 10 of the group's hotels in Shanghai, raises more than 259,000 yuan for charity.

Other corporate supporters for Baobei include local coffee chain Wagas. The chain of cafes has raised more than 60,000 yuan this year in an ongoing promotion across its 14 outlets.

Donations for the charity can be made via the Website at


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