By Rachel Chan
This summary attempts to report the work of Chi Heng Foundation, a non-governmental charitable organization aimed at helping HIV impacted children in China. The Foundation started with one man’s dedication and efforts to combat what UN predicted as the “verge of a catastrophe”. It was estimated in 2005 that the epidemic will grow rapidly to 10 million cases by 2010. In the 1990s, blood selling became very popular in parts of Central China especially among poor farmers as a means to earn money. Many blood collecting stations operated illegally and used unsanitary practices for blood collection. As a result, estimates of as high as 60% of the adult population is infected with HIV in many villages.
It started with a man’s passion of giving back to society where the neediest lies. Mr. To Chung, founder of Chi Heng, a Harvard MBA graduate, quit his high-flying job in 1998 as a commercial banker in Hong Kong and spent full time helping HIV-impacted children in China, initially from his own savings and small amount of donation to what becomes one of the most known AIDS relief charitable organization with over $4 million in donations (CHF Website). Education on AIDS and relief for AIDS impacted families have traditionally received little attention due to stigmatism and the cultural contexts of philanthropic efforts in China. To Chung’s efforts and the founding of Chi Heng exemplifies the philosophies of where the West meets the East in philanthropic practices and traditions. Despite growing visibility of the Foundation and their accomplishments in China, donations towards AIDS relief lags far behind many other forms of relief such as the Sichuan Earthquake or reliefs for other natural disasters. Stigmatism towards AIDS is not alone in China but it manifests itself in many ways different from other developing countries in light of China’s cultural, social and political contexts.
Chi Heng Foundation embraces many of the western ideologies in giving and volunteering. It speaks to the spread of AIDS as a social issue which requires the concerted efforts of individuals, public, corporations and the state. Mr. To Chung’s personal sacrifice also speaks to the responsibility of good citizenship in a democratic society. To ground these beliefs in China where the traditional role of giving takes on a different meaning can also pose a challenge. Personal tragedies are often viewed as private issues; families, villages or clans are traditionally the primary care-providers. In many cases, AIDS impacted orphans are left in the care of elderly grandparents who can barely look after themselves. The idea of deserving and non-deserving also plays a significant role in how the public perceives charitable organizations. The readiness in giving to a natural disaster relief over causes in fighting the epidemic may also be seen as deserving versus non-deserving.
The Buddha and Confucians teaching reiterates the importance of personal sanctification as the pivotal step towards reincarnation and social order further perpetuates the idea of personal matters over public issues.
At Clinton Global Initiative (“CGI”) Asia Meeting held on December 2, 2008, Chi Heng Foundation was featured as an initiative recognized by Former President Bill Clinton for an innovative commitment helping AIDS impacted children in China (CHF website). Chi Heng Foundation situates itself in the midst of China’s hub of economic prosperity and international spotlight, any high profile efforts in fundraising will undermine its long-term effectiveness in carrying out its commitments in China. Chi Heng – where the West meets the East, way to go!
Chi Heng Website : http://www.chfaidsorphans.com/staticpage.php?id=10
Zhang, K.L. et al (2008). China’s HIV/AIDS epidemic: continuing challenges. The Lancet. Nov 22-28. Vol. 372, Iss. 9652; pg 1791