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Why 'Mother Zhang' is an anxious woman

Updated: 2013-11-30 13:48
By Sun Ye ( China Daily)

Why 'Mother Zhang' is an anxious woman

Five orphans look at their photos taken a fewer years ago at their residence – Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation Association – in Fuyang city, East China's Anhui province, Nov 27, 2013. [Photo/Xinhua]

Head of AIDS orphans group frets over lack of precise instructions

Zhang Ying is worried.

The children's activities center she runs already has a library, a drawing room, a music room with electric keyboards, a dance studio and a study hall.

Volunteers from Fuyang Normal University in Anhui province are helping out. Children at the center are happy and close to Zhang, calling her "Mother Zhang".

But the head of the Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation Association, who founded the organization single-handedly 10 years ago, is worried that she's not doing enough.

"We are doing everything out of a feeling of motherly love," she said during a Red Ribbon Foundation campaign in which winter clothing and stationery packages were distributed to the children earlier this month.

"When I see that dancing makes them happy, I hire a dance instructor. They also love sightseeing, so I try to apply for, and arrange, summer trips.

"But we don't have any specific instructions on how to deal with children who may need special psychological support. We can only act on our instinct."

This approach seems to work well. Children affected by AIDS in the city and nearby counties gather at the center for weekend activities.

Five of about 30 young members of the association have the disease and most have lost one or both parents to it.

"I do disco dancing, folk dancing and catwalks," said Li Wen, 13, lead dancer in a small troupe, who added that she's "very, very happy" at the center. The youngest in the group is 7 years old.

Yu Mingyue, a 27-year-old who has painted with the children for five years, said: "They're not gloomy. If anything, they're more naughty and playful than other kids."

One of the children, 12-year-old Gao Jun has starred in the Oscar-winning short documentary The Blood of Yingzhou District.

Zhang said of Gao: "You wouldn't believe how much he has changed. For the first two years he was here, he wouldn't even talk."

So, despite the lack of specific instructions, the association may still have struck the right note.

Fu Yan, head nurse at You'an Hospital in Beijing and its "Love Home", which deals with AIDS prevention, treatment and counseling, said: "These children are definitely more sensitive and prone to feeling lonely. So interaction with other people - as they have in dancing and drawing lessons - is most helpful.

"That's how your love and care gets through to them and the children's gets back to you.

"For now, there is no systematic training in mental support for the children. But the key is this - love and respect. Besides, each of the children has a different background and you have to adjust."

Wang Kerong, director of the Home of Red Ribbon at Beijing Ditan Hospital, says the key to working with AIDS-affected children is encouragement and love.

"Their lives are different in that they have to take pills every day," Wang said, adding that she will offer this explanation to the younger children on why the drugs are needed: "It cages the monster virus in your body and you'll be strong."

Later, she will also warn about intimate relationships.

"They are sensitive and will have come to know everything about the disease by then, so the most important thing is love and support - in the same way you would love and support your own children.

"After all, singling out a group for special treatment is discrimination. If there is a way to go, treat them as you would treat anybody."

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