Gift of Life changes lives

A child holds a doll in a hospital bed, behind her are the child's parents and doctor
A Gift of Life heart surgery recipient, the child’s parents, and doctor.

By Magdalen R Leung, Rotary Club of Richmond Sunset, British Columbia, Canada, and a member of the Health Major Gifts Initiative Advisers committee

Magdalen R Leung

Through my participation in global grants from The Rotary Foundation, I have seen how the lives of 600 children in China have been changed for the better in the past ten years.

I have been involved in four global grants to support Gift of Life in Shanghai, China. These grants, ranging from $150,000 to $200,000, have provided life-changing heart surgery to children as young as three months old, with most of the children ages five or six.

Part of every grant is training for new doctors and nurses to perform the surgery and to ensure post surgery care. Training new medical staff in remote areas has reduced costs by allowing the children to have post-operative care locally rather than having to endure a long bus or train journey to Shanghai.

I have been asked from time to time why I spend so much time in a different country helping these children. On one of my first trips to the hospital, a doctor explained that one little girl needed emergency heart surgery, but her family could not pay for it. I asked him how much and he said $5,000. This small sum for one child’s life. The hospital just wanted the commitment that the money was available. My Rotary club made the commitment.

One year later, I went back to visit this little girl. She opened her shirt to show me her surgery scar and said, “look this is my zipper.” I said it’s so beautiful and she said, “do you think I would ever get married with this?” I said, yes, I guarantee you will get married. It is this child and all the others that make me want to raise more dollars and save more children.

The parents come and kiss you and hug you and say thank you. They want to give me gifts, small things to me, great gifts for them. Sometimes they give bags of peanuts, hand-made slippers or a scarf. This is from families with next to nothing. How can a person not want to work on the next grant and the next?


December is Disease Prevention and Treatment Month in Rotary. Make a donation to this area of focus at www.Rotary.org/donate. You can also support an area of focus with a gift in your estate plans or by establishing an endowment.

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