This was our first visit to Shitai in Anhui Province, which left many touching stories to share with you. We are deeply moved not by the suffering of the people there, because there are sufferings everywhere, but by these people’s persistence, optimism and courage in facing the tribulations.
This account is about the father of a student recipient of our aid. He is only about 4 feet tall (120 cm) and, being widower, acts as both the father and the mother of two children. This forty-year-old middle-aged man is shouldering the burden of raising a son and a daughter. In front of these two children who were outstanding in learning and obedient the father proudly said to us: “I am a great father, right!?”
Let us hear the story of this self-claimed great father---
When we saw him in the entrance to the village, he was loading a rickshaw designed for a disabled runner. What was within the reach of the ordinary people, he had to do it by stepping on top of a bench. From his skilled actions, we could see that he had done this for a long time.
Thinking of his child who received educational aid and seeing that he had a rickshaw designed for a disabled runner, I had a question in my mind, but did not have the nerve to open my mouth.
That night I discovered the history of that rickshaw only during my chatting with the official of the local China Disabled Person’s Federation (CDPF), who was then the director of the CDPF in Xiaohe Town. This father found the director, told him the difficulties of his family, and wished the government to help him. At that time, his wife passed away, the two children were still small, and he himself had two broken ribs because of falling down from the mountain while trying to gather firewood there. Later he scrimped and saved enough to pay for the surgery, and the family became penniless. The director could not think of any way to help him. This father then sat for twenty-five days in the CDPF. Touched by his dedication, the director and the party secretary of the village became his guarantor, lent him US$610 (4000 yuan) from the credit cooperative and bought him a rickshaw designed for the disabled runner. He was certainly a clever and deft person. Being too short to step on the brake, he then added a log on top of the brake plate. From then on, he started his transportation business.
In such a town of only several thousand people, there were not many transportation businesses, not to mention that he was a disabled person. It was not easy to compete in making money with the ordinary runners. Others pulled their customers during the daytime; he pulled at night every day until after two o’clock in the morning. When long-distance buses crossed the town and dropped off their guests, he would be waiting at the station on time every day regardless of wind and rain.
A few years have passed and his two children have grown up day by day. The elder sister was admitted with honors into a high school and is now in the second year of high school; the younger son is in the second year of junior-high school. People in the town said that the two children came out at the top of the class, but to their father the pressure was also growing. Few people lived here, students must go elsewhere to attend junior- high and high schools, and returned home only once a week. Although the junior-high school students did not have to pay tuition, nonetheless books, room and board, as well as travel expenses added up to about US$7.6 (50 yuan) per week on the average; high school students must pay tuition in addition to the above, which added up to about US$10.7 (70 yuan) per week. This was nothing for the city dwellers; it was very easy to earn US$18.3 (120 yuan) there. But in that small town it was not a small amount, because Shitai was a poor country where the annual income of a family was only a few hundred US dollars (a few thousand yuan).
Four years ago, Mr. Zaishen Shen in Washington, D.C., offered financial support to this widower’s daughter through the AiXin Foundation. Later Mr. Ying Cui continued this financial aid. Talking about this, the father was very grateful and particularly wanted us to tell these loving donors that no matter how hard and how tiresome, he would support his son and daughter to complete their education and make them useful to society.
The children's mother died six years ago. All these years, this father did odd jobs and transportation work away from home. At home, he did laundry, cooking, collecting firewood as if he were both a father and a mother. It can be said that he would rather sacrifice himself but not delay his children's life. (Then, this father had a good enough score to enter a junior-high school, but due to his insufficient height he was not admitted in the end). In order to make the children feel at ease in studying, he did not remarry. He said that it was difficult to support two children, but despite some hardships the children would be able to understand him. He was afraid that if there were a "stepmother," and he were not able to support the children for studying, then they might have some discontent...
What he said was very practical.
At the time of our departure, he said this to us: he relied on the government (for help), but he did not want to depend on the government (for help); as long as he had the ability, he wanted to work hard and sincerely thanked those who helped him.
We have learned from the director of the CDPF that over these years he has paid back the loan of US$610 and hospital charges of about US$200 (1,300 yuan) owed in those years.
Reading to this point, you will probably be like us confirming that he is a well-deserved and truly great father!? He makes us feel self-confident, stand on our own legs, and have dignity; his smile and voice are engraved in my mind and never go away.
I really hope that next year those who have love will fund his son again to study in high school in order to reduce the heavy burden of this short, small but great father.
The story above happened in a small mountain village called Xiaohe Town in Shitai County of the Anhui Province. The hero of the story is the father of Yafan Wang, a student funded by the AiXin Foundation.
This time, the two of us as volunteers on behalf of the AiXin Foundation interviewed over three days twelve families of students who receive financial aid. These twelve students live separately in four towns and eight villages of Shitai County. Mr. Liangshun Wu of the Shitai CDPF and the driver Mr. Jin were with us during the whole trip. The four directors of the CDPF of these four towns accompanied us to each village, and then the secretary of the village or the person in charge of the CDPF took us to individual homes for visits. We are grateful to these dedicated people! Without the persistent support and help from the local governments and these enthusiastic people, the AiXin Foundation would not be able to help so many poor children.
During the visit, we found that at each level of the CDPF there, the staff members in charge of the CDPF were well aware of the situations of the disabled persons under their management. In each place we visited, the staff members working there always introduced us to the local situation in great detail. They enjoyed great trust from the people receiving the aid and these people conveyed to the staff what happened at their homes, whether they were difficulties or changes. Most CDPF staff members in these towns and villages also worked part-time on civil affairs. What impressed us the most was director Xiaoping Li of the CDPF in Renli Town. On the way, she showed us a nursing home where the old people saw her as if they saw their relatives and rushed to tell her the news of the nursing home. They told her about the harvest of the tea garden in the backyard, the vegetable field, the food, and their own special cooking… In our view, the passion of these old people was recognition for her daily work and a reciprocal love to her.
Every family we visited was very clean. Though poor, they worked very hard. Whether they were elderly or disabled, all did different kinds of work within their capacities. Even the firewood of every family was cut neatly, so we could feel their love for life, positive attitude towards life, and hope for the future.
If we make an assessment on the grants given by the AiXin Foundation, we think that they are very useful and very worthwhile. First of all, these grants can pay for the tuition and miscellaneous expenses of the poor students so that they can complete their studies and help to reduce the pressure of life of their families. If at the same time there were the ability of extending student aid to families of disabled persons by means of small grants or interest-free loans, then more families could be lifted out of trouble.