Author(s): Jane Hutcheon
How one woman turned her life upside down to help those who needed it most - half a world away. In 1997 Linda McCarthy Shum had a stable teaching career and a happy marriage with beloved partner Greg. Living in regional Queensland, Linda was a woman of deep faith with a family of grown children and grand-children on the way. She was 49 and her life was fine. But Linda's life had not always been so settled. Throughout her childhood she had been made to feel unwanted by a mother battling her own troubles. This cold beginning to Linda's life journey, and the sad cruelty she had just read about in a newsletter, would soon bring her life undone. The article spoke of Chinese babies being abandoned and dying because of a lack of human contact. The unwanted children were seen as 'throwaway kids' and armies of them were filling up the orphanages of China. Linda Shum was appalled. A year later, on her first-ever trip overseas, she visited an orphanage filled with sick and dying children, the hidden human aftermath of China's One-Child Policy. For almost two decades, while China busily developed into a wealthy economy, Linda has travelled back and forth from her home, raising money to better care for the orphans. Battling distrusting government officials and a constant lack of funds, Linda has saved countless little lives, while also establishing a school in the orphanage and a foster-care program. Today she is the founder and President of the Chinese Orphans Assistance Team (COAT). Linda's work has given the 'throwaway kids' a brighter future, but her achievements have been hard won. During her twenty-year sojourn against sorrow, Linda has had to overcome her own tragedies, surviving breast cancer and a double mastectomy and later the loss of her husband Greg. Host of ABC-TV's One Plus One, and former China correspondent, Jane Hutcheon was captivated by Linda Shum's story and driven to write a compelling account of a passionate and complex woman who has journeyed into the abandoned heart of the world's most populous nation.