Rotary's Gift of Life

China Daily

On May 14, five and a half year old Zhang Guang Lung traveled with his distraught father from their home in Anhui Province to the Shanghai Chest Hospital.  The father got down on his knees and pleaded with Dr Chen Chun, a pediatric cardiac chief surgeon, to operate on his son to repair his heart that had been damaged since birth.  His wife had died a year earlier and her medical bills left the family penniless.  With only 100 Yuan ($12) in his pocket, Guang Lung’s father didn't know where to turn for help.

Dr. Chen waived all examination costs and evaluated Guang Lung's medical condition.  She discovered that his heart defect was serious.  An Operation was urgently needed to close a thumb-sized hole in his heart that caused him to be severely weak and short of breath.

Dr Chen, who has 20 years of international medical experience, warned the boy's father of the risks involved in an open-heart operation.  They were told to return the next morning to see if a donor could be found to pay the medical bills, which would amount to about RMB25,000 (US$3,000).  The father said they had no place to go but would sleep at the train station and return in the morning.

Dr. Chen then called Rotary secretary Frank Yih, who is a managing director at Asionics Shanghai.  Yih immediately began calling his fellow Rotarians to raise the required funds.  "This was the first test of our compassion and ability to organize Rotarian resources for the good of this boy. We knew we would sure will feel good if Guang Lung could pull through."

Within a few days, Rotary members in Shanghai dug into their own pockets to raise the money. Guang Lung's heart defect was repaired on May 21 in a six-hour operation by a highly skilled surgical team headed by Dr Chen and her professor, Dr. Pan Chih, a cardiovascular surgeon who is semi-retired but acts as a consultant at the hospital.

Rotary Club members were at Guang Lung's bedside over the next three days to observe his speedy recovery.  The first thing they noticed was his rosy red cheeks, a sign that his repaired heart was now adequately circulating blood throughout his body.

On May 24th, Guang Lung's chest tubes were removed and he was soon playing with the other children on the ward.  On June 1, International Children's Day, the Rotarians celebrated with cake and refreshments for Guang Lung, his playmates and the caring hospital staff.

In June and August, two orphans Hung Tong Lin, a 2 and a half-year old girl from an orphanage in Nanchung received similar heart operations.

The Rotary Club of Shanghai provided the money needed to pay for the Medical costs associated with each of those surgeries and follow-up care. "For $9,000 we gave three sick children the opportunity to have new lives," said Clark Johnson, a Managing Director with Premier Automobile Manufacturing and a board member of Rotary Shanghai.

The club plans to sponsor another 10 children for this operation before the end of the year.  Throughout China, there are about 600,000 children in dire need of life-saving surgeries to correct heart abnormalities and congenital birth defects.  "The Gift of Life is a program from the hearts of Rotarians to repair the hearts of sick boys and girls in remote parts of China's coastal cities," said Yih.

"We want the Shanghai expat community to realize how important this is," said Rotary's past president Randal Eastman, a business development manager at Your Importer.


Rotary was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois by lawyer Paul Harris and three friends.  Harris wanted to recapture the friendly spirit he had felt among businesspeople in the small town where he had grown up.  The name "Rotary" was derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices.

The RCS was founded in 1919, one year after the Manila Rotary Club, the first Rotary Club in Asia, was established in the Philippines.  By 1937,China had 25 clubs and some 900 Rotarians.

At first, some considered Rotary to be a "foreign import" and doubted it could adjust to Asian cultures.  They were wrong.  Currently, there are 7,000 Rotary Clubs in Asia with 285,000 members in 17 countries and regions. They account for 25 percent of Rotary's 1.2 million members worldwide. Over the past five years, Asian countries have contributed more than US $1.3 billion to the Rotary Foundation.

Although no officially chartered Rotary clubs have existed on Mainland China since 1953, expatriate Rotarians have been meeting regularly in Shanghai since 1997 to support worthy projects in the community. In July, the Rotary Board granted provisional club status to Rotary clubs in Beijing and Shanghai.

The Rotary Club of Shanghai's past president Percy Chu, a banker with business degrees from Shanghai University and Columbia University, was a Rotarian for 75 years.  He devoted himself to the ideals of Rotary until his death on March 19 at the age of 103.

Born Zhu Bo Quan in 1898, during the sunset years of the Qing Dynast, he lived through three centuries and five vastly different regimes in China. Though he could not attend weekly meetings after Rotary Clubs in Mainland China disbanded, he kept in touch with Rotarians throughout the world.

"During the past eight decades, Asian Rotarians have changed the face of their own countries through volunteer activities and by initiating projects that address hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, unemployment and environmental problems," says Wen Huang.

Excerpts from: 
China Daily newspaper article July 2001