Last week, New York real estate developer Matthew Blesso graciously hosted a fundraiser to support the Worldwide Orphan Foundation which transforms the lives of orphaned children around the world. Dr. Jane Aronson, WWO founder and CEO was on hand giving a brief presentation on her recent mission trip to Haiti to show the long term assistance programs they are establishing to improve the lives and well being of the thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world.
Held on a lush Penthouse loft and rooftop with stunning views overlooking lower Manhattan, Blesso’s aerie is a true urban oasis that brings the richness of nature within proving that nature and architecture can coexist in a concrete jungle. Working with 2 Yale professors, an architect and landscape designer, he turned his rooftop into a series of stunning gardens and also brought nature into the apartment with lush foliage and drip irrigation systems as the centerpiece of his airy loft.
This was the perfect setting for a noble cause. Carnvalesque entertainers and acrobats took center stage atop balustrades performing between water towers with sword swallowers and a brass band keeping the mood lively until the wee hours. I can’t think of a better way to spend a balmy summer’s night.
WWO has been granted NGO status in Viet Nam and Ethiopia and has embarked on training programs for physicians in both countries to care for HIV-infected orphans. WWO treats children with HIV/AIDS at Tam Binh Orphanage #2 in Ho Chi Minh City, at Ba Vi Orphanage outside Hanoi, and at the orphanage in Vung Tau. In addition to arranging with USAID to procure the antiretroviral treatments, WWO runs training programs (sponsored by Bristol Myers-Squibb) for Vietnamese doctors and nurses. WWO supports an in-orphanage school at Tam Binh and at Ba Vi.
We had a chance to chat with WWO founder, Dr. Jane Aronson. Dr. Jane Aronson was born in Brooklyn in 1951 and grew up on Long Island. She attended Hunter College in New York City and taught school for ten years. At thirty-one, she fulfilled her life’s dream to become a physician and entered medical school. She graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 1986 and did a pediatric residency and chief residency in New Jersey, followed by a fellowship in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Columbia Presbyterian /Babies Hospital in New York City. Between 1992 and 2000, she was the Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Director of the International Adoption Medical Consultation Services at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, New York.
Since July 2000, Dr. Aronson has been in private practice as Director of International Pediatric Health Services, in New York City. She is Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and has evaluated well over 4,000 children adopted from abroad as an adoption medicine specialist; she has traveled to orphanages in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Latin America. Her role as pediatrician and adoption adviser to celebrities such as the Pitt-Jolies and Mary-Louise Parker has put her in the media limelight, and also turned her into a very public advocate and defender of adoption. In the 20 years she has practiced adoption medicine, a new branch of pediatric medicine, Aronson reckons she has helped between 25,000 and 30,000 children. She is the adoptive mom of two sweet boys, Ben, from Viet Nam and Desalegn, from Ethiopia.
We provide them with medication and we provide medical mentoring for Vietnamese physicians to increase their ability to diagnose and manage children with HIV infection in general.
ASIANCE: I know you are heavily involved with orphanages in Vietnam. Are you working with any other Asian countries?
Aronson: At this point, we’re quite invested in Vietnam. We’ve been there for 8 years. We have a very complex program for HIV infected orphans at 4 different sites. We provide them with medication and we provide medical mentoring for Vietnamese physicians to increase their ability to diagnose and manage children with HIV infection in general. They’re very involved in the infrastructure of the government (Vietnam) and the Department of Labor and Social Service. We’re one of the select few partners with the Vietnamese government.
We’re located in 4 different sites and educate the community and help people to understand the needs of children with HIV infection, so they can attend school. We’re involved heavily with psycho-social programs with children. We have granny programs where we have hired individuals from the community to enhance children’s development. We have hopes of creating schools. The government supports children getting an education living with HIV. It’s a real challenge to get the local people to accept children with HIV in the community schools.
ASIANCE: Are the orphanages just for children with HIV?
Aronson: We’re involved with children who are infected and non-infected. We focus on HIV-infected children.
ASIANCE: What about China? I read you are doing some work there as well.
Aronson: We’ve been in China on a number of occasions. We’ve done training programs for physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals in the area of Pediatric AIDS. We work with physical therapists and staff in orphanages and we help them better understand the needs of terribly disabled children.
ASIANCE: Can someone adopt an orphan affiliated with the Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO)?
Aronson: We’re not involved in adoption. The Foundation is to enhance the lives of orphaned children of their own countries and help them to become successful citizens in their own countries.
ASIANCE: How can the average person get involved with WWO?
Aronson: Go to www.wwo.org. It has an Orphan Ranger Program and Volunteer service projects. You can support us financially and/or volunteer in our office.
ASIANCE: What are you currently working on now? What is coming up for you?
Aronson: There is always something new. For Asia, we have camp this summer with Hole in the Wall Camps, which is the brainchild of Paul Newman. It provides hundreds of orphaned kids with residential camp experience. That’s this summer!
For more information, please visit www.wwo.org
For more information on Dr. Aronson, please visit www.orphandoctor.com