Rotary good deeds bring Christmas cheer - and help all year round

Shanghai Daily
Author: Sam Riley

ROTARY Club Shanghai funds the formal training of migrant workers as caregivers for elderly folks who live at home. And that's just one of its many good deeds all year round, writes Sam Riley. For an organization with just 57 members, Rotary Club Shanghai punches above its weight, having raised more than US$2 million in the last two years for worthy causes across China.

The expatriate club helps charitable organizations in China, ranging from providers of wheelchairs to groups providing books to schools in poor rural areas. The organization also works closely with the Shanghai Charity Foundation to implement projects in the community.

Rotary is a global network of community volunteers drawn from business and professional ranks. It aims to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards and provide intercultural and educational activities.

The Shanghai club has extensive links to fellow Rotarians and Rotary clubs around the world and often receives matching grants for money it raises in Shanghai.

Rotary has a long history in Shanghai where it was first established in 1919.

The club was reformed in 1995 and operated as the Expatriate Rotarians and Friends in Shanghai until 2001 when it was given a provisional charter by Rotary International. It became a fully chartered club in February this year.

The club's membership represents a range of professions and businesses and draws members from more than 19 nationalities. More than 20 percent of its members are women.

At its last weekly meeting for the year last week, more than 40 guests and members heard about Rotary's ongoing projects.

One of these is an innovative program to provide formal training for caregivers to the elderly in Shanghai. They learn how to cut hair and bathe clients and to observe strict hygiene standards. They also learn some basic psychology to help the elderly. Rotary donated 350,000 yuan (US$51,083) toward the project that trained more than 1,000 caregivers this year, most of them migrant workers. 

China faces the challenges of an aging population and a chronic shortage of qualified caregivers, says Kitty Xia, Shanghai Charity Foundation's executive deputy secretary-general. She gave a detailed account of the project's progress.

Describing the program as "win-win," she says it both helps meet an urgent social need and provides a stable career path to a large group of migrant workers.

"It is predicted that in 20 years, there will be 4 million senior citizens in Shanghai," she says.

At this time, almost 21 percent of city residents are over 60 and 90 percent of them live at home, says Xia. "It is very hard to find qualified caregivers for these seniors and this is an urgent long-term need in our society."

Recently trained caregivers also addressed the Rotary meeting and described how they have benefited.

Trainee Ms Xu says the training helped her listen to and care for her patients better and to pass on to them the detailed health information she had learned.

"Now my patient listens to my advice about her health care," she says. "I learned about a lot of things like high blood pressure, and I was able to help my patient by passing on this knowledge. I have become like a family member."

One of the central figures in the relaunch of the club in the early 1990s is Frank Yih, chairman of the club's service project committee.

Born in Shanghai, Yih moved to the United States where he earned a graduate degree from MIT and worked on the world's first microchips in Silicon Valley.

The retired businessman oversees fundraising for Rotary projects, including AIDS awareness, providing water in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and providing winter kits for survivors of the Sichuan earthquake.

The club's major fundraising event of the year was the annual Golf Day; this year members raised more than 590,000 yuan.

One of the club's signature projects is its "Gift of Life" program funding surgery for children with congenital heart conditions.

The club has funded 235 life-saving operations at the Shanghai Chest Hospital and at Suzhou's Kowloon Hospital over the years, says Yih.

The club is always looking for new members. Anyone interested in joining can find more information at

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