Parents want their children to grow up happy and healthy.

But for one in every 100 infant, nightmares do exist when they’re born with congenital heart disease or CHD. As the name suggests, congenital (meaning, present at birth) heart disease is a malformation of the heart at birth. Presumably caused by consumption of alcohol or certain medications, affliction with rubella or diabetes during pregnancy, or heredity, the defect can be as benign as having a small hole in the heart which can heal over time.

Some cases are more acute.

It is estimated that about 5.5 million children worldwide are dealt this terrible hand at the start of their lives. What’s worse, 94 percent of those who suffer from CHD come from families that cannot afford medical attention.

Children diagnosed with CHD suffer from weakness, have a high susceptibility to pneumonia and other respiratory, and cardiovascular complications. They require multiple surgeries and extensive treatment. Without the medical procedure, they stand little or no chance in life. And if the children survive at all, they do not live normal productive lives.

In the Philippines, the Rotary Club of Makati West (RCMW) has been raising funds in conjunction with the Gift of Life (GOL) through various charitable events.

This year the RCMW will be holding the ALAY SINING 9, a showcase of sculptures and paintings, and art sale of the works of the country’s great masters and up-and-coming artists. Proceeds will benefit the children under the GOL program.

The theme, “Art with A Heart,” is most fitting having artists share their talents through their sculptures to children with CHD during the the four-day charity.

More than 400 beneficiaries have undergone free heart surgery since its inception in 2005.

The program has been an indispensable life-saver, with post-operation results immediately evident: The children gain weight as their appetites increase, they are no longer prone to respiratory infections and pneumonia, and generally become stronger and more active, allowing them to regularly attend classes.

The parents receive psychological and spiritual relief, and free them from the financial burdens brought about by their child’s periodic sickness and hospital confinement.

It is hoped that the recovery in both parent and child, and the experience of kindness and compassion of others through the Gift of Life program will provide these families with an inspiration of the type of caring that they would also share with others in the future.

The Alay Sining charities were conceptualized by the late National Artist for Architecture, Design and Allied Arts and past RCMW president I.P. Santos.

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