Today I was privileged to be among the local church people who were invited to the Puckety Presbyterian Church in Lower Burrell to have tea with Helen Zhao.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) brought Ms. Zhao to this country in September as part of its International Peacemakers Program. Ms. Zhao is one of a the thirteen 2005 International Peacemakers.
She works with the Amity Foundation in China. The Amity Foundation was formed in 1985 as an independent Chinese non-governmental organization. It seeks to represent a new form a Christian involvement in Chinese society. It promotes education, social services, and rural development in China through more than one hundred different projects. The Amity Foundation has a number of international partners, one of which is the PCUSA.
Some of the projects involve AIDS prevention and education. She says that a number of people contracted AIDS through the selling of their blood. Blood of the same type from a number of donors would be combined, and the plasma removed for medical use, but then the donors would get the cells back from the mixture. So one infected person quickly became five and so on.
The Amity Foundation has projects to help socially isolated and unsupported people who are HIV positive. One of the projects is an Income generating project in which a person is given a female pig or a goat to raise and sell the offspring. The Amity Foundation also supports micro-credit projects.
Ms. Zhao showed slides of schools in China with crude desks and benches made by the students themselves. The Chinese government pays for the salary of a school teacher, but does not provide the school buildings. The Amity Foundation has a school building project to help a community build a decent school. Participation in building a school is good both for the self-esteem of the poor communities that participate and for the long-term sustainability of the project.
The "one child" policy in China has led to the rejection and abandonment of children who are unwanted either because of deformities such as cleft palate or club feet, disability, or gender. Some problems can be helped medically, but Amity also encourages getting children back to school where they can learn basic skills.
The Amity Foundation works to provide training for village doctors and has provided training for 18,000 rural doctors and has provided mobile medical vehicles that can even double as a mobile operating room in a rural area.
Ms. Zhao will speak again this weekend at the Saturday evening service (7 PM) at the Puckety Presbyterian Church in Lower Burrell, and on Sunday morning at the 11 AM service at the Puckety Presbyterian Church.