In April 2008 four women living in Shanghai started a charity to address the needs of Chinese orphans born with often life threatening neurological and gastrointestinal disorders. They named the organization Baobei meaning ‘precious child’ in Chinese and partnered with surgeons at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (SCMC) as well as an increasing number of individuals—both foreign and local, businesses, and charities. Baobei Foundation not only helps children get life-saving surgeries, but also critical aftercare. I interviewed Managing Director Carol Hoag to find out more about the organization and their current work.
Q. How did Baobei start?
A. We were all working with
another orphan care organization based in the U.S. I was asked by Emily Chan (a
native of China who was employed by that organization) to get a group of expat
volunteers together to help out at the hospital. I did that and we had a group
of 100-150 people. Then [the organization] decided they weren’t going to do
work at that hospital. We were left with this big group of women and me and Emily.
The doctors wanted to keep going. We just needed to re-title it and continue. The
pieces just started coming together. We had Emily--she had so many China contacts
that we needed. I have a business background, and then Ann Kedl came on board
and she has all kinds of child care experience. Then Kelly Thompson came on
board. The 4 of us became the co-founders. The whole group of volunteers was so
thrilled to hear. We started getting financial donations, etc. The kids kept
coming, and it kept going under the new name, Baobei. It wasn’t as smooth as
that but essentially that’s what happened.
Q. Why do you focus on neurological & gastrointestinal (GI) surgeries?
A. GI surgeries—nobody really does
that specifically, and a lot of organizations just aren’t going to take on
Neuro surgeries. (In particular, Baobei doctors have done surgery on babies
with Spinal Bifida, the 2nd biggest birth defect in China which also brings with
it complications such as hydrocephalus.) The care for the kids is long term.
They are fragile and have to be watched carefully. It’s much more complicated,
but because that’s where the doctors’ expertise is, that’s what we do. I would
say that 80% of the surgeries we do are neuro. We do get kids born with their
intestines outside their body. It is urgent. It has to be addressed. I don’t
know another organization that works specifically in these two areas.
Q. What does aftercare for the babies involve? Who cares for them?
A. Mostly volunteers’ homes. We
have one local family that cares for a child and we would like to see more of
that, but for local people most of them both work out of the home. Aftercare takes
having a wife or husband at home and caring for that baby. They are going to
have them for at least a year.
First, you have to save a life—you have to do the surgery. After that, the most important thing is the after care. I think it probably takes really almost a year for them to stabilize. They get regular checkups In the Healing Homes, they’re taken care of like a normal child. These families sacrifice. They take them on and pay often even for the medical care. We have about 20 families doing that right now.
We really look after them after their surgeries. Ultimately we want them to be adopted. We’re looking at the whole life of the child. We’re not even as firm on that now as we will be In the future.
Q. How have you seen Chinese
respond to your organization and what are your hopes for developing more
A. Really positively, generally
speaking when the Chinese see and hear about what we’re doing they are very
moved. A woman came to the hospital this week [to volunteer with the babies],
and a few days later emailed me and said, ‘My husband just put 5,000rmb in your
account.’ I gave a presentation at a local company and the people were so moved
that they gave their own money. Chinese do not usually give financially, but
more in volunteering. I don’t know how to help them volunteer sometimes, my
Chinese isn’t great. We are eventually going to have to find a way to help
local people to volunteer better. It’s much easier for us to help expats.
Wagas [a local restaurant chain] will be our first big data point to see how well and how long we sustain Chinese giving. Jackie, the manager, read about one of our babies in a local magazine and contacted me. She came to visit the hospital and through that we’ve become their preferred charity. It’s our first try to break into the local scene to see how much Chinese give. To date about 90% of our donations have come from expats.
While we are kind of run by expats, at the end of the day we all will leave here. Raising awareness is important, especially among people of wealth. An added benefit is that the people in Shanghai can be taken to the hospitals and touch the kids. I’m absolutely convinced if you can let people touch and see the child, they’re hearts are moved. It’s very cool.