Food parcels ease burden for Aids orphans on mainland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2007, 12:00am

Last Christmas, the SCMP/RTHK fund-raiser Operation Santa Claus raised more than HK$16 million, helping 27 charities realise projects to enhance the lives of children and adults. In this fortnightly series, we revisit some charities to give accountability to our readers and check in with those you helped so much.

Mrs Leung has cared for her four grandchildren since her son and daughter-in-law died recently of Aids. As farmers, they were both infected with the virus in the 1990s after selling their blood to unscrupulous blood traders on the mainland.

The grandmother and the children live in a small brick house with a mud floor in Anhui province . Families in the region generally earn about 1,500 yuan a year growing corn and beans.

'I want them to go to school, and not have to sell their blood like their parents did,' Mrs Leung said.

Recently the Chi Heng Foundation, a Hong Kong-based charity that helps 4,000 Aids-affected children on the mainland, handed out nutritional food bags to many families to ensure that children infected with HIV, or have HIV-infected parents, are provided with healthy food.

Mrs Leung gave a timid smile when presented with a bag full of food. 'You will need to help me carry it inside' she said. 'I'm an old woman, you know.'

As one of the 27 beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus last year, the Chi Heng Foundation was able to purchase 10,000 food bags containing nutritious food, including soy milk powder, sausages and enriched peanut oil, as well as stationery for the children. More bags will be distributed for the Lunar New Year.

Due to her age, Mrs Leung no longer has the strength to farm and depends on the foundation's support to keep her grandchildren at school.

'We help the children and their families so they can continue to go to school and do not have to do household chores or to go out to earn money,' said Chung To, Chi Heng's founder. 'This is their only chance to have a better future.'

Anhui province is one of the areas hardest hit by HIV/Aids. Officials say there are more than 76,000 Aids orphans on the mainland.

'Thank you very much for your help,' Wu Qingtang, an orphan who lives with his uncle, said. 'I want to learn more English and go to university like Mr Chung To.'

The foundation had special help to distribute the food bags. Thirty university students, also affected by Aids and sponsored by Chi Heng, chose to go back to their villages in the summer. In addition to distributing food bags, they organised tutorial lessons and home visits.

'Sometimes it was hard emotionally, as when I saw a grandfather weep when he talked about his deceased son. We've been through this, we know how it feels,' Yu Hong, a student from Henan province , said.

'The children were so excited. Some even came from other villages,' David An, a medical student, said. 'The most popular classes were English and music. They love to sing.'

The names of the villagers and students have been changed.