June 12, 2023
DHAKA – Chin, whose birth was aided by Peace Ark medics, wants to be ‘envoy of friendship’
Alifa Chin is a 13-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in the port city of Chittagong whose last name sometimes leads to her being mistaken for a Chinese.
“I like my name very much. I think I have a blood connection with China and my name is the symbol of friendship between Bangladesh and China,” she said, referring to her special bond with the country forged at birth.
In 2010, Chin’s mother, Jannatul Ferdous, was unable to give birth naturally due to a serious heart problem. Local doctors were unable to perform the necessary surgery, and transferring the mother to another city was not an option, as she could have gone into labor at any minute.
Luckily, the Chinese navy’s Peace Ark hospital ship was about to arrive in Chittagong to provide medical treatment for locals. Thanks to the efforts of Chinese doctors and nurses, Ferdous gave birth to a healthy baby. Her husband, Anwar Hossain, named the girl “Chin”, Bengali for “China”, in a show of gratitude.
“Now we feel a close relationship and bond between Bangladesh and China. The two countries are not only neighbors, but also true friends,” Ferdous said.
This year, Chin wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping to express her gratitude. To the family’s surprise, Xi wrote back.
In the letter, Xi encouraged her to study hard, pursue her dream and carry forward the traditional friendship between China and Bangladesh.
Chin said that when her friends learned she had received the reply letter from the Chinese president, “they felt very jealous”.
“To live up to President Xi’s expectations, I will keep studying hard so that I can study medical science in China when I grow up and become a doctor to help those in need, just like my Chinese mama did for me,” she said.
The girl’s father said: “We didn’t expect that our daughter would receive the letter from the Chinese president. This is the most unbelievable thing in our life”. The letter is framed and hangs on a living room wall in the family home.
Whenever a Chinese naval ship docks at Chittagong, Chin and her parents go to the port to see if the “Chinese mama” who helped bring her into the world is among the visitors. The person she is referring to is Sheng Ruifang, who was an anesthesiologist aboard the Peace Ark and played a key role in the cesarean delivery of Chin at a local hospital. The surgery was aided by Chinese medical expertise, medicine and equipment.
According to Sheng, the surgery was high-risk, as it involved two lives. The Chinese navy doctors were asked for help as soon as the ship docked at Chittagong. “We finally decided to do it because it concerned two lives,” she said, recalling what she described as the most complicated surgery of the mission.
In 2010, as a purpose-built hospital ship, the Peace Ark set off on an 87-day medical mission, its first. The ship visited the Gulf of Aden and five countries in Africa and Asia to provide medical treatment. Bangladesh was the last stop.
In 2013, when the Peace Ark visited Bangladesh again, Chin went aboard and Chinese navy doctors gave her a comprehensive health check.
When a fleet of Chinese naval vessels visited Bangladesh in 2017, Sheng had an emotional reunion with Chin’s family at Chittagong port. “Among the people waving flags I found Chin, a little girl with curly dark hair. It was at that time that she kissed me and called me Chinese mama for the first time,” Sheng said.
Hossain said local people have benefited greatly from the hospital ship during its visits to Bangladesh. “We want that ship to visit Bangladesh again in the future,” he said.
In December 2019, Chin and her family visited China and went aboard the hospital ship in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province.
Chin said that over the years, “uncles and aunties from China “have cared about her and “I really appreciated that”. “I love China, and I want to be an envoy of friendship between Bangladesh and China,” she said.
Chin is now in sixth grade. Mathematics is her favorite subject, and at home she likes to draw.
In 2019, Chin and her parents were invited to visit China.
During the trip, Chin reunited with Sheng. The Bangladeshi girl said Sheng and other doctors welcomed her like their own daughter. “She is a real hero to me,” Chin said.
Sheng, who has participated in several Peace Ark missions, has witnessed how people in other countries have gained a better understanding of China through the medical assistance. “In Africa, we helped many local people restore their vision through cataract surgery. To local residents, China is a major country that is responsible, peace-loving and always willing to help,” she said.
The Peace Ark has undertaken 10 overseas missions since its launch, visiting 43 countries and providing medical services to more than 250,000 people.
Sheng said it’s very meaningful for her to have a special “mother-daughter” bond with a girl in Bangladesh. “I think it also symbolizes the lasting friendship between China and Bangladesh that will be passed down from generation to generation,” Sheng said.
Chin said that if she gets the chance to visit China again, she wants to meet with President Xi and Sheng. “And I also want to visit one of the Chinese universities,” she said.