For the last decade, PATS local partner AOS has brought many of the PATS children to Beijing each summer for "camp". It is a great opportunity for the children to see something outside of their small rural town and see important historical and cultural sites. The children look forward to this trip all year and it is the only opportunity most have to travel anywhere.
Many local university students volunteering with the Red Cross signed up to help with the summer camp and were on hand to engage with the children, serving as tour guides. The kids called them “GeGe” and “Jiejie” (Elder Brothers and Sisters) and had a very fun week in their company.
They visited the Beijing Zoo where they said hi to the pandas and the Science and Technology museum where they participated in some very cool hands-on scientific exhibits. They also took some art classes and toured many scenic and historical places in Beijing where they loved getting photos to bring back to show friends and family.
The highlight of the trip was meeting Yao Ming! When the kids first met Yao in person, they were so surprised that 'He was so tall!' Yao played basketball with the kids, and put some kids up on his shoulders so they could shoot baskets. They also met with Peng Liyuan (China’s 1st lady)- which was an incredible honor.
As you can imagine the kids had a blast on the trip and for a short time could focus on the fun of childhood rather than on the heavy and often difficult day-to-day existence they live back home. Thank you for your support that allows us to provide our kids not only with critical medical and educational support, but also from time-to-time with a chance to experience childhood.
Below are some group pictures. We hope you enjoy them!
PATS has been extremely fortunate to have Dr. Jessica Haberer on our Board of Directors since its inception. Dr. Haberer worked previously with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative in China where she was a Clinical and Research Advisor to the Chinese Center for Disease Control. She was a leader in the initial rollout of pediatric ARVs across China, as well as the Clinton Pediatric HIV/AIDS Program. In this role she met several of the PATS children and supported their medical care. Jessica now splits her time between Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA where she continues her work in support of HIV-positive children and adults around the world.
Dr. Haberer has been key to supporting the PATS program. In the early years of PATS she provided medical expertise when we created our bilingual HIV education manual that would become an important go-to information source for our workers. She also reviewed and gave important input to a picture-based manual we put together for illiterate caretakers of HIV-positive children and she has ensured that all surveys and other program documents were medically accurate and ethically appropriate. Most importantly, for several years she has participated in conference calls with our staff in China, answering questions and concerns the workers have about specific children or their parents. These calls were translated by bilingual PATS volunteers and were followed up by e-mails as needed.
An example of questions that the workers recently asked Jessica include the following:
1. A child’s mom just changed to 2nd line medication and her platelet count has drastically decreased. So she switched back to first line drugs. Do you have any suggestions on how to proceed?
2. A child’s mom is on ARV meds and her blood cholesterol level is very high. So she is taking a lot of different medicine to control her cholesterol levels. Will that affect her ARV medication?
3. Many parents asked how come their kids have been taking their ARV meds for a long time, but their CD4 haven't risen very fast. Is there a reason for that? Do ARV meds and CD4 actually correlate?
Dr. Haberer has also been essential to providing advice to several children who were critically ill: one child developed cancer and another was hospitalized with a very low CD4 count and was in need of changing her ARV drugs which PATS supplies from the US. She provided real time advice about how the workers should work with local physicians to respond to these challenging situations. She gave them the support they needed to help families and their doctors make good decisions about their care. While PATS always works with local doctors and the Ministry of Health system, sometimes they do not have the expertise or the time to provide our workers or the PATS children with the one-on-one attention they need. Dr. Haberer has provided PATS workers, children and their families with an important supplement to the care they have available locally and the good health of many of our children and their families is a direct result of her medical support.
2015 is the Year of the Yang (Sheep). There is a saying in China: “three yang makes for great happiness.”
We are excited to share some updates with you about a very special PATS child named Zhen Zhen who has been blessed with happiness despite a very challenging beginning.
Zhen Zhen- who is now approximately 9 years old- came to PATS several years ago as a toddler. A police officer found her abandoned in a park and when they learned that she was HIV-positive she was taken in by our partner organization AIDS Orphan Salvation Association (AOS). AOS settled her in a small, loving home along with 4 other HIV-positive children who did not have any relatives or friends who would care for them. On her first day she cried and cried and was so scared and disoriented that it was painful to imagine the number of losses she had been through already at such a young age. Fast forward just a few months and she was thriving in her new “family” and was so warmly accepted by her new brothers and sisters. One afternoon not long after she arrived she was helping the older children celebrate a birthday. She was at the center of the gang, face covered in frosting and smiling so joyfully as the older children doted over her.
PATS has ensured that Zhen Zhen receives nutritious food, hygiene supplies and that her medical needs are closely followed to be sure she does not need to start on ARVs to treat her HIV. Our health workers visit her weekly, check her overall health status and speak with her caretakers about any health developments. They also take her to her doctor’s regularly and for regular blood tests to be sure she does not need to initiate ARV treatment.
Zhen Zhen was initially homeschooled as a result of stigma that prevented her from entering mainstream school; however, she is now at the local school and is thriving. She studies extremely hard and is very diligent in all of her subjects.
This past winter AOS' Director Zhang took Zhen Zhen on a trip of a lifetime- she flew to Hainan Island and joined a winter Camp there. She so enjoyed the good weather and scenery and it really opened her eyes to the world outside of Fuyang, Anhui where she lives.
Zhen Zhen loves to learn new dance moves- as you can see in the picture here- and enjoys putting on performances with the other children in her home.
Thank you for helping us to support children like Zhen Zhen whose lives are enriched and made possible by your generous support.
*The US operation of PATS is completely run by volunteers. Over 98% of the funding goes directly to China and the program.