Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Story of OI China in the Making

When I wrote the Initial Report in 1998-1999, I was interested in China becoming a project of OI Worldwide. In the summer of 2003, I sent a letter to a circle of Chinese-American friends inviting them to a potluck dinner to explore the possibility of working with our friends at OI Hong Kong towards building an orphanage in the People’s Republic. One of the reasons for our success is that we represent immigrant communities who wish to give back to their native lands. OI Hong Kong was officially formed as a committee in Hong Kong in 2003.

Building an Internet-connected network of orphans.

Dan Chin Yu Kiang is one of the greatest guys I have ever met. We worked together at Merrill Lynch when I was supervising in desktop publishing. He has heard about Orphans International from its inception, and read many drafts of my Initial Report. When he relocated to Hong Kong, he helped to create OI Hong Kong to focus on OI China. He began to work with a beautiful woman there, Bernice Szeto, who was familiar with orphanages, and they soon married. When Dan asked me to marry them on Long Island, I was surprised, to say the least, as I am not a minister. His lawyers worked it out, though, and I did indeed officiate at their wedding. They married again in Hong Kong, and each occasion was marked by hundreds in joyous attendance.

One year later, in the summer of 2004, after our World Congress I in Indonesia, members of our U.S. Board of Directors, Marlene Flom, Ethel Grodzins Romm, Nurit Marcus and I stopped there to meet with Dan and Bernice. Dan unfortunately was away on business in Taipei but Bernice was the perfect host and we discussed the incorporation of OI Hong Kong. Guangdong, once known as “Canton,” would be the future site of Orphans International in China. The stumbling block in the process seemed to be that to receive tax-exempt status in Hong Kong, OI Hong Kong would need to have Hong Kong-based programming, but the intent was to raise funds for a project in Guangdong. This seemed to be a major obstacle.

The solution discussed was to organize OI Hong Kong as an NGO providing professional volunteers (doctors, agronomists, educators, etc.) and products for our projects around the world.

Chinese-American physician Steve Wang, founder of the China AIDS Orphan Fund, spoke at the Asia Society in the spring of 2004 emphasizing the need for small NGOs to work together. In July 2004, I held the Worldwide Congress in Indonesia. The first four organizations approved as OIWW Partners in Progress included the China AIDS Orphan Fund.

In the summer of 2006 the Beijing Chapter of Rotary International began a dialogue with us to create a joint project in China. As a Rotarian, I had begun a dialogue with the Beijing chapter through my friend Mosud Mannan, Minister of the Embassy of Bangladesh to China. In New York in 2000, Mosud and I had gone to Toastmasters and worked on the school PTA together.

Finally, OI Child Sponsorship Committee Chair Bonnie Goodman has returned from touring China, focused on art. With all of these synergies in motion, OI China will most assuredly form shortly in the world’s most populous nation.

No comments: