Created in 2001 as the philanthropic branch of United Family Hospitals (UFH) the United Foundation for Chinese Orphans (UFCO) offers underprivileged kids one of the most basic, but also most important aspects of human life—health. Partnering with local organizations, UFCO provides medical services, modern healthcare, and training through UFH, as well as, funding for medical services that the cannot provide. UFCO currently operates in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. They partner with organizations like Baobei Foundation and BethelTraining Center for the Blind which have been featured in SVG newsletters and blog posts. New York native Ellen Luo recently came on as UFCO’s Executive Director. She discussed UFCO’s mission, goals, and CSR with us.
As executive director I’ve been charged with a lot of things. In many ways UFCO
is ready to grow up. It’s ready to be a self sustaining organization so we have
to begin cultivating it’s presence, strengthening programming, being more
strategic, building the knowledge base, marketing and fundraising, and then
tackling our China registration which is very cumbersome. We have been registered
as a 501c (3) since 2001, so we are hopeful that at some point we will get
registered [in China]. A lot of people aren’t comfortable existing in the gray
area. We want to get that respect.
Q. How did
United Family Hospitals decide to open this philanthropic branch of the
A. UFH decided, reviewing the health issue in China, that there is a lack of medical and healthcare for the orphan population. It’s still shrouded in mystery. We don’t know much about the population, but we know they need a lot of help. Roberta Lipton (UFH’s founder) decided there should be a philanthropic arm that provides services to the neediest and the most vulnerable.
We are changing the name to a more simplified name because we don’t just deal with the orphan population—street kids, kids that have to deal with leukemia treatment--our target population has grown just based on need. It’s difficult for us to refuse medical care because that is a basic human right.
We have 2 program streams one is through the UFH program—any child that has been approved goes through the hospital system for services that we can provide. For those that can’t, we partner with other medical facilities and we pay for those—that’s where external fundraising is needed. We have to do a better job of that. That has been rather taxing on our own internal resources, but definitely we are concentrating most of our resources within the UFH resources.
Q. How do you identify kids in need of help?
A. We have partnerships with agencies. They’re basically a smaller, better resource (usually foreign operated places) that can take kids that maybe the orphanages don’t want to deal with. In that sense our relationship with the foster homes here in Beijing are really strong and we provide the medical care. So that is primarily how we get the kids.
We prefer programmatically not to just take kids off the street. I don’t think that’s a very helpful approach just because there is a lot of social work aspects and counseling that is needed. A lot of children come with parents and if you see a child in need it’s difficult to say no, but we don’t really have the resources a foster home has so it’s best to make the referral. That’s where the approach of having partnerships is so important. So we can maximize help as much as possible.
Q. What does your volunteer base look like?
A. Mostly expat. We try to cultivate volunteers through the UFH system because it creates a better atmosphere, a meaningful work environment for our staff, that they can help this charity in more ways than one. Our accounting person is a volunteer. We have a nutritionist who goes on our trips to the orphanages every quarter to measure and weigh the kids—makes sure they are growing. We have a number of other volunteers, too, who help with marketing.
We’re cultivating college graduates, too. Colleges students don’t have much experience, but it’s a process. We’re building relationships with career counseling systems at Qinghua and Beijing [Universities] for example, soliciting interns on their website. We’re hoping to stabilize our volunteer populations somewhat.
A. We see children whether they are orphans or low-income. We see them when they have emergencies, but where is healthcare before they get sick? Preventative care. They don’t go see the doctor for annual checkups, have never had a vaccination even though a number of them are free. But because of barriers in communication or lack of communication they don’t know that. One area in which UFH can really strengthen its programming is to include annual checkups and maintenance, vaccinations. If one kid has chicken pocks that is easily spreadable in the community and that could be very easily prevented with vaccination, these simple things that can prevent disease.
For many of the children of this population they are shorter and leaner than other kids, so that affects their growth and brain development, muscle development, and all these things because this population mostly doesn’t have enough nutrients to begin with. They need as much health care as possible. So it would be so simple for UFH to provide through our partnerships with organizations.
Q. What has response have you had from your partners?
They definitely understand the need because they are knee deep in it. They are
exceptionally happy when they find out that we exist. They are ecstatic. Organizations
want to provide these resources but they don’t have expertise and funding. Where
we come in is that we are willing to make the donation and we have the expertise
so let us become part of your programming. We’re not here to make UFH popular,
what contributes to our CSR is that we’re willing to come in and assess the
situation and provide the medical healthcare they need. I think everybody just really
wants to help. They really care. It’s
Q. As the philanthropic wing of United, how do you view CSR in China? In your opinion, where should it go?
A. There is a need to build a knowledge base. You have to ask yourself: what is CSR, what does it entail and what does it mean for our company? What is the impact on the child? How do you go about really becoming a part of the child’s life not just scratching the surface of the issue. The issue of philanthropy is relatively new in China. What does giving really mean? What is meaningful giving and long term giving where you are a part of sustaining a program that is meaningful to you?
Q. What are important issues you want people to take away from this interview?
A. Health care is a public health issue, a public safety issue. I think sometimes we forget how important healthcare is until something bad happens. People should know and think about what healthcare is when you don’t have it and when you need it, especially for abandoned children, runaways, and people with low income.