Little Red Scarf is in Lanzhou, Gansu, and Yunnan provinces. We provide financial support and encouragement to children suffering from congenital heart disease. In addition, we provide families with post-operative care and help the children sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Xiao Cui, Yigai’s daughter, is a 19-year-old girl with congenital heart disease and patent ductus arteriosus, which is a condition in which the ductus arteriosus, a vessel that circles around the lungs and which usually closes after birth, remains open. In third grade, a school-mandated physical examination revealed that she had congenital heart disease, but because her family was extremely poor, she went three years without receiving any treatment. Finally, with Little Red Scarf’s help, Xiao Cui underwent surgery at Kunming Hospital on July 15, 2016.
Yigai doesn’t understand Mandarin Chinese, and so our communication was all facilitated by Xiao Cui, who acted as our translator. The family is of the Wa ethnic group and resides in Lincang County, Yunnan Province. Yigai was married at age 18 and gave birth to three daughters in succession. A few years after Xiao Cui’s birth, her father fell ill and never recovered for three years until his death. That year, Yigai was only 28 years old.
Just like that, Yigai was left as a single mother residing in the mountains and caring for her three young daughters. They had nearly 10 acres of land, but the mountain soil was infertile and harvests were not plentiful. Every day for the last ten years has entailed the same familiar routine for Yigai: waking up at the crack of dawn to plant tea, tobacco, corn, and vegetables, and staying up late into the night.
Just like this, she slowly paid off debts accumulated for her husband’s medical treatment, all the while raising her three daughters into grown women. She never remarried, and the wrinkles on her forehead are a testament to her strong will and the resourcefulness and efficiency of her younger years.
Xiao Cui said that her mother has a fiery temper, but gets along with her daughters harmoniously. The family appears to be a group of four sisters, not a mother and her three daughters.
These few years, because of government policy, the family has received 2,816 RMB ($425 USD) per year for the second category of low income insurance and 1,000 RMB ($150 USD) per year as part of an effort to help Chinese citizens living near country borders. Combined with the 4,000 RMB ($600 USD) income from their crops, the family receives a total income of 7,775 RMB ($1,200 USD). However, there is only about 4,191 RMB ($630 USD) left after taking out various costs. This sum acts as a source of money for their daily life, and also to finance Xiao Cui’s city education.
Because of the family’s lack of wealth, the oldest and middle daughters dropped out of school after completing elementary school to help at home. Xiao Cui said that her sisters pity their mother and see how much work she must do, and so they chose to help with farming chores. Xiao Cui is the only one to continue her education at an occupational middle school.
Now, the oldest daughter is 23 years old, and the middle daughter is 21 years old; both are around the customary age to get married in the countryside. However, in order to take care of their mom and younger sister, they chose not to date.
Looking at Yigai’s three daughters, we could see some of the same facial characteristics that Yigia had when she was young; large, curious eyes, and general beauty. They are in the most beautiful years of their life, and no lack of wealth can strip them of their youthful allure.
Yigai, now 43, has grown weaker from half a lifetime of labor. She was struck with stomach and gynecological complications three years ago. She often experiences abdominal pain, vomiting, and over time became increasingly bedridden and unable to work. She now rents out their tea fields to other local farmers for the price of 1,000 RMB ($150 USD) per year. The tobacco fields have fallen to neglect, and the family now relies on the various help they can get from other farmers, meaning that they don’t have a fixed income. They have also become increasingly reliant on relatives.
Because of financial constraints, Yigai has never received proper medical examination and treatment. She said that she has chronic gastritis, and she only found out by diagnosing herself after hearing her relative describing the symptoms. Every time the disease flares up, elders from the village come to relieve the symptoms using magic spells. Xiao Cui said that at times the magic works, and at times it doesn’t.
When I asked what disease resulted in Xiao Cui’s father’s death, she said that she was too young at the time and doesn’t remember. Yigai said that she doesn’t know either, just like many other mountain folk who die without knowing what it is that killed them.
Little Red Scarf decided to fundraise $480 USD for this mother so that Yigai can quickly receive medical diagnosis and treatment. On the day that Xiao Cui was released from the hospital, we gave them the sum of money. Their life from here on out will not necessarily be much better than it currently is, but we hope that the family of four can suffer less and experience more joy. United, they have walked out of so much pain and suffering, and we hope that they continue to support each other for a long while.
Original article written by Qianhua, translated by Maggie Li, and edited by Yanyan Zhang and Carolyn D.
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