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November 2, 2009

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Auction benefits acid-attack victim

A WINE auction has raised 80,000 yuan (US$11,700) to pay for further surgery on Chen Chao, a 15-year-old girl left severely disfigured by a sulfuric acid attack.

With the help of China Association of Social Work's Save the Children Committee, the girl from Sichuan Province has been in Shanghai Ren'ai Hospital since September 17 undergoing treatment.

The association launched a wine auction to raise money for Chen last Thursday night. More than 150 white-collar workers and expatriates participated in the event to pay for further plastic surgery.

Her eyes, nose and mouth were left fused together after her mentally disabled cousin poured sulfuric acid over her head in 2007, believing her to be a "demon with horns."

Chen is verging on blindness, with no sight in her left eye and able only to sense strong light with her right.

Doctors hope to restore her sight next month before her eyelids fuse together.

The wine auction drew strong support, with one American teacher offering to teach Chen English.

"I have some experience in psychotherapy as I worked in a children's hospital before," said Bruce Delaney, who works in an international school in Shanghai. "I can teach her English and also try to heal her emotional trauma."

Delaney also sent his favorite tie, a colorful design with cartoon characters, as a gift to the girl's father, Chen Jiping.

"My students would laugh out aloud every time they saw me wearing the funny tie," said Delaney, "I hope Chen will also laugh when she eventually sees her father wearing it."

But the operation to save her sight is not without risks, doctors stress.

"The chance of success is slim and if we fail, the girl may be completely blind, even losing her sensitivity to strong light," said Zhao Jun, Chen's attending doctor.

"I can feel those who care about me," said Chen. "I touch their hands and hear their voice - my biggest wish now is to be able to see them, as well as the world."

Chen is now able to speak fluently and eat without difficulties after oral surgery on October 17.

Charity officials estimate Chen's total medical expenses may reach 200,000 yuan, and more fundraisers will be held over the next few months to cover her expenses.

"Besides Chen, about 500 children who became orphans in the Sichuan earthquake are waiting for help," said charity worker Helen Zhao. "We are seeking help from the public to offer them a better life."


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