Liu Qifang is co-owner of an advertising and media company in Beijing. Liu in 2013 went to Changchun, capital of northeastern China's Jilin Province, with Shunbao, her then-one-year-old daughter, to work as a volunteer. Now, Liu is director of a team of volunteers who participate in a public-welfare, medical-assistance project.
Jilin Youth Development Foundation and Jilin New Rural Cooperative Medical System Administration Office, in 2014, initiated Jiqing & Jixin, a public-welfare, medical-assistance project. The project has two objectives: Raise 100 million yuan (US $15 million) in the next five years, and help 10,000 impoverished people with heart disease in rural areas of Jilin receive free heart surgeries in Jilin Heart Hospital (JHH).
In 2013, Liu was asked to design the logo, create the slogan and brand the Jiqing & Jixin project in Changchun. At first, Liu thought she could complete the work and return to Beijing within three months. However, a little girl changed her mind.
"One day, my daughter and I met a five-year-old girl with congenital heart disease in the inpatient area in JHH. Shunbao gave her a lollipop. The girl accepted it without any facial expression. I asked the girl if she was unhappy ... She told me she did not dare to become excited, as her mother said 'she might die if she was excited.' I felt sad for the girl. She was diagnosed with congenital heart disease when she was a year old," says Liu.
"She could live like normal children if she received heart surgery. However, her parents could not borrow enough money to pay for the operation. The girl could only be hospitalized for a short period of time, whenever she was in bad condition. She should have had lived a happy life like my daughter.
"Many people in rural areas are suffering from heart disease. Those patients, from underprivileged families, cannot afford the cost of surgery. What they can do is to wait for death. Many families have been caught in poverty, because they borrowed money to pay for treatments and/or surgeries. Every year, nearly 100,000 people in Jilin are diagnosed with heart disease. However, less than 5 percent of those people are able to receive heart surgeries … I wanted to do something for those impoverished people with heart disease. So, I became a volunteer," Liu continues.
Making an Effort
Few patients with heart disease trusted Liu and her team initially, as they did not believe they could receive a heart surgery for free. The team cooperated with local governments, and the team's members talked about the project with doctors and village cadres during training sessions organized by local governments. However, such efforts appeared to have little effect. Then, the team cooperated with Songhe Peasant's Cooperative, which was popular with peasants in Jilin Province. The cooperative helped to find 68 patients with heart disease who were willing to receive help from the project.
"I realized giving lectures was not a good method of promoting our project. So, we went to villages to promote our project. We visited families from house to house. We paid return visits to the first group of 68 patients … after they received their free heart surgeries. We asked them to help us promote our project. To date, we have gone to more than 2,000 villages in Jilin to promote our project. We have also organized doctors to see patients in villages for free. It is a good method of finding people who are suffering from heart disease," says Liu.
Organizing lectures in JHH is another important aspect of the team's work. Every day, the volunteers hold lectures for patients and their relatives at 2 p.m. in JHH. Patients need to stay in hospital for seven days after they receive heart surgery. They can get up three days after the surgery. The volunteers motivate them to participate in the lectures on the fourth to seventh days.
"We invite cardiologists to give lectures to patients about why they have heart disease, how they should live after heart surgery and how to prevent a relapse of the disease. I believe charity is more than donating money. I call on patients who have received our help to promote our project … I think that is also a kind of charity," Liu says.
"We have helped more than 5,000 people with heart disease receive free heart surgeries. Many of them are aged 40-60. People at that age need to support the elderly and raise children. However, they could not do heavy work before they received their surgeries, and their families lived in poverty. After they received their heart surgeries, they were able to perform farm chores and support their families. They can earn more money, and their family members will live better lives," says Liu.
As Liu does not want to live apart from her daughter, Shunbao has stayed in Jilin for much of the past three-plus years. "A mother plays an important role when a child is young. In Beijing, the elderly can help me look after my daughter. I need to take care of her on my own if she stays in Jilin with me. Also, I did few household chores at home before I came to Jilin. However, I still took Shunbao with me, as I hoped to accompany her. I have encountered so many difficulties in the first two years. Maybe I could not have worked as a volunteer without her. She has brought joy to me and my colleagues. Now, Shunbao is old enough to do some work … She is the youngest volunteer on our team," says Liu.
Says Shunbao: "I can distribute leaflets (about the project) … I can distribute books to children (patients in hospital) … And, I can issue candies to them."
Adds Liu: "She respects me, as she knows I am helping others, and I am being respected by others. I pay attention to my words and behavior, as I need to set a good example for my daughter."
(Executive Editor: DOU DOU, Women of China English Monthly February 2017 Issue)
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