The Asia 21 2006 Public Service Award was presented to the Chi Heng Foundation. The Chi Heng Foundation is a charitable organization based in Hong Kong that was founded in 1998. The foundation focuses its work within China, where it addresses AIDS prevention, targeting vulnerable groups and care for AIDS patients and their children. The organization is governed by a board of directors (non-paid), who supervise a group of staff and volunteers in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shenzhen. The main source of income comes from private donations; all funds raised go directly towards projects.
The Public Service Award was received by Chi Heng Foundation Founder and Chairperson Mr. Chung To, was a 2007 Asia 21 Young Leaders Fellow.
Acceptance speech by Mr. Chung To:"Shaping an Asia-Pacific Century: Challenges and Choices"
November 18, 2006
“Mom,why don’t you sell me?” a seven year old girl called Fang Fang said toher dying mother. “If you sold me, you would have money to buymedicine…. Don’t worry mom, when I grow up, I know my way back to lookfor you.” What Fang Fang did not know was both her parents were dyingof AIDS due to selling blood. Earlier this year, despite governmentprovided ARVs, both her parents died of AIDS, leaving behind Fang Fangand her younger sister, who is also HIV positive. Fang Fang alreadylost both parents to AIDS, and will soon lose her one and only siblingto the virus, becoming the only survivor in her family. According tothe New China News Agency, there are 76,000 AIDS orphans in China likeFang Fang, and the number will increase to 260,000 by the year 2010.
During the 1990s, many poor peasants in China sold blood in order toearn extra income. Due to unsanitary blood collection practices, manyof them contracted HIV and died of AIDS. In some villages today, over40% of the adults have either died of AIDS or are HIV positive, leavingbehind tens of thousands of orphans. Most of these children do not haveHIV themselves, and will continue to live in the society for 60 or 70more years. If we do not help them now, they will grow up uneducatedand vulnerable, becoming a large force of social instability fordecades to come.
As I watched in horror the destruction of the middle generation, Istarted a program focusing on helping the AIDS impacted children bysponsoring their education and providing psycho-social support andvocational training. We do not build orphanages, and we do not operatefoster care. We empower the local communities so that children can growup with their grandparents and relatives. We put them back into thelocal education system so that they can go to school with othernon-AIDS impacted children. Although we do not run schools to provideeducation, we do run psychosocial support programs and vocationtraining for AIDS impacted children and youth. We also try to cut outthe middle person as much as possible, by directly paying educationfees to the local schools and to the students we serve. Taking apragmatic, non-confrontational and result-driven approach, we havegrown to become the largest non-governmental effort in helping childrenimpacted by AIDS in China, serving over 4,000 children in the program.
In addition to the program helping children impacted by AIDS, wealso run an equally important AIDS prevention program focusing onvulnerable groups such as MSM and sex workers in 8 cities in China,providing the much needed safer sex information, condoms and lubricantsthrough community outreach, VCT, hotline and capacity-buildingworkshops.
Since the emergence of SARS, the Chinese Central Government hasmoved from denial to proactively solving the AIDS problems. Our workhas become easier in terms of government acceptance. However, thegrowth of the problem and the spread of AIDS have outpaced the progressmade. Like many other NGOs, our work is impacted by lack of sustainablefunding and capable human resources.
AIDS emerged 25 years ago in the US, at the same time when I movedto San Francisco to attend high school. Since that time, it has grownto a global disaster, killing over 20 million people. Another 45million are living with HIV in the world today. Over 12 millionchildren are orphaned by AIDS.
In 1997 when I was working for an investment bank, I took a journeyto Tibet, where I got inspired by two religious tools that the templeused to train the monks. One tool represents wisdom, and the othercompassion. It is the goal of Tibetan Buddhism to train monks topossess both qualities. If a person only has wisdom but no compassion,he or she may not do much for the society, but if a person has a lot ofcompassion but no wisdom, the help to the world may also be limited. IfI spend all the time in the AIDS impacted villages hugging and cryingwith the orphans, I may not be able to help a lot of them. Our missionis to create a healthy, equal and harmonious society. Although it is acharity, we try to run this charity as efficiently as possible. Forexample, we put a strong emphasis on internal management, monitoringand evaluation, application of technology, and voices from the frontline and from the people we serve.
Tonight’s award comes at an appropriate time, two weeks before WorldAIDS Day, in an appropriate place, Asia. While most of the AIDScasualties are now in sub-Saharan Africa, many experts predict thatAsia will be next. You may think that Asia still has a long time torespond. However, from an epidemiological perspective, once we havepassed a threshold, the spread of the virus will move very quickly.Take South Africa as an example. It took South Africa 5 years for theprevalence to increase from 0.5% to 1%, but it took that country justanother 7 years to reach from 1% to 20%. We simply do not have time tobe complacent.
Because of the huge population base of Asia, we do not need to see a30% prevalence to reach a global disaster. Even a moderate 3% infectionrate in two Asian countries alone, namely China and India, couldtranslate to 70 million new infections, which will be more than all thepeople who have died of AIDS and infected in the world combined,resulting in unbearable cost in medical care, social instability, andmillions of orphans.
After learning of the disastrous impact of AIDS in Africa, manypeople in the developed world said "Gee, I wished I knew, and we couldhave done something." In the case of Asia, we have no excuse of sayingsuch thing, because we do know it is coming. So ten years from now in2016, when we sit around attending the 11th "Asia 21" meeting, I hopewe would not say to each other, "Gee we should have done something.
Tonight in the audience are young leaders who care about thedevelopment of the Asia Pacific region. All of us can do somethingabout it NOW. It could be joining the cause as a volunteer, hosting anawareness raising event, donating money or material supply, ordeveloping a corporate social responsibility program. We are runningout of time, and desperately need more help.
It is a great honor to be here tonight. I am extremely grateful forAsia Society and its partners for having the vision to give thisinaugural award to an AIDS NGO in Asia, which not only represents itsrecognition of our work but also the recognition of the importance ofAIDS.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very narrow and rapidly closingwindow of opportunity to do something about AIDS before it is too late.As my friend David Ho said, to a large extent, our generation will bejudged by history on how we respond to AIDS. I hope you can join me inthe fight against AIDS. Thank you very much.