NEWS

New Yorkers help build the global village

Stephanie Bergeron

Last Christmas, Meg Chaides and her seven brothers and sisters decided they wanted to do something good for the world.

Chaides, a Victor resident, was heading to China to visit her sister Deirdre Daniel, who works in Henan province on an infant-nutrition program for orphans. Her husband, Bart, is a hospital administrator there.

Before she visited China, Chaides and her sibling heard stories from Deirdre of the many orphans the country. UNICEF estimates that there were 20.6 million orphans there under the age of 17 in 2005, many of them with conditions like cleft lips, heart disease, cerebral palsy and limb deformity. Further statistics regarding the extent of the orphan problem are hard to come by, as the Chinese government itself does not report them publicly.

The Daniels said their own adopted daughters, Aisling and Hannah, were abandoned by their birth parents because they could not provide care for their atresia microtia, a defect that deforms the ear.

While Bart said he loves his daughters and can’t imagine his life without them, he still wonders about the people who gave them up.

“I am also saddened by the thought that (Aisling) has a mother out there that cannot share in the joy of seeing a very special little girl grow up,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The reality is that her mother out of great despair had to abandon her, and we are determined to put an intervention in place that will stop this from happening in the future.”

The Daniels’ mission is to stop such abandonment while helping those who have already been its victims: The orphans. They’re building the Zhengzhou Morning Sun Center of Hope Charity Hospital, a free hospital for orphans. Set to open its first unit some time in the next three months, the center will first focus on the needs of orphans and later expand to poor families who would otherwise have to give up their children.

When the couple picked Aisling up from the orphanage, she was only in the second-percentile for weight, meaning of 100 children, she would be among the two smallest. She also couldn’t hear out of her left ear and was lactose intolerant, which didn’t help her put on weight. After medical care, the Daniels say, she had a complete turnaround and is now in preschool, developing normally.

“When a child is born with a special need, the parents are caught in a difficult situation; they don’t have the resources to be able to apply for the medical care,” stated Bart. “On the other hand, if they abandon the child, then maybe the government will provide the medical care the child needs.”

But that isn’t a given.

The Morning Sun Center of Hope aims to solve some of these dilemmas for poor parents. Last summer, the Daniels found a hospital that had been left unfinished when money ran out. In a joint venture with the initial hospital developers, the first 100-bed unit will be completed for only about $65,000. The hospital also has support from the Chinese government, which hopes to have it open by this summer’s Olympics in nearby Beijing.

The second and much more ambitious phase will involve completing the entire hospital at a cost of about $10 million, making it a 240-bed facility. That’s where the family’s main work begins. In the last few months, the Daniels have been obtaining Chinese government approvals to move forward for fundraising. They’re looking to target foundations, companies, individuals and groups all around the world to help fund the center.

Every little bit counts. Chaides said she has sent out letters to people the family knows in the United States. On Sunday, she’ll run a make-your-own-teddy bear project to raise money for the center at the Victor Central Schools’ Focus on China event. She and her siblings also sit on the Hope Center’s board of directors. Bart is the chairman of the board, and Deirdre is the president.

“This went from this dream a year ago,” said Chaides. “We’ve gone from ground zero to being a fully tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.”

The center will start off by focusing on the country’s orphan population and later expand services to meet the needs of indigent children throughout China.

“Chinese parents are like parents everywhere, they love their children.” said Bart. “We believe that this is the real intervention and will start to stop children from being in the orphanage to begin with.”

For more information on the Morning Sun Center of Hope visit www.mschope.org.

Contact Stephanie Bergeron at (585) 394-0770 Ext. 255 or sbergeron@mpnewspapers.com.