Volunteer sees beauty in helping deformed babies
Xu Pu, former manager at a US company in Shanghai, is cofounder of the Shanghai Baby Home, a care centre for disabled infants forsaken by their parents. She has devoted a lot to the charity, but says she has been 'taking' more than 'giving'.
Tell us about the care centre.
In June 2008, 11 of us white-collar mothers set up this centre to look after abandoned disabled babies from various provinces. We take them from local government welfare centres to Shanghai for surgery, because of the far more advanced medical resources here. Then we care for them until their adoption. So our home serves as a place of 'transit'. We hope each of them will eventually have a new family. We now have 10 children, aged from three months to about three years, living in a rented villa in Minhang district at a cost of more than 6,000 yuan (HK$7,100) per month. We pay some women to provide round-the-clock care. About 40 babies have been adopted, with nearly nine in 10 going to foreign families. We help babies with cleft lips, water on the brain, congenital heart disease and deformed genital organs, because we know experts who cure these conditions. Most of our babies are from Henan, Fujian and Shaanxi, where we have good ties with the welfare centres.
Why did you found this centre?
We founders became acquainted via yaolan.com, a website for mothers. All of us are passionate about helping poor children. We found that at many grass-roots public welfare centres, because of meagre funds and indifference, disabled babies are not properly treated. We suggested taking them to Shanghai for treatment and the centres agreed. That's how the home began.
Why are foreigners the main adopters?
Mainland families prefer healthy babies, whereas foreign couples are willing to adopt babies with problems, possibly because of their nations' medical and social security systems. In China, there is no such policy or cultural environment.
What has the response been like?
The media coverage in 2008 was good. On weekends, our volunteers play with the children. Pupils at a Minhang school have been serving for two years, coming with their parents. Since they are only six or seven years old, we encourage their parents to teach them compassion towards unwanted disabled babies. These pupils don't fear deformed infants.
What challenges are there?
Funding is tough. We need about 40,000 yuan a month to pay the rent, salaries for 10 women and other fees. Necessities such as milk formula, napkins and clothes are all donated. We appreciate these donors' help.
Which baby has impressed you most?
In 2007, I saw an infant, born without an anus, whose treatment was paid for by a US charity. She did not smile, perhaps because she had never had affectionate care before. After her surgery, my family cared for her until last year, when she was adopted. She now lives in Alabama.
How has the work affected you?
The other day, I told my six-year-old daughter through a story that a person should not only work and live, but also think about how to make this world more beautiful. Without the charity work, I can't imagine how boring my life would be. I have gained a lot, including many friends, wider horizons and happiness. I quit a telecoms firm in January to serve the home full-time. My husband supports my choice.