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.
I was shocked by Xiao Cui's weakness when I first saw her in the hospital ward. She looked like a 12-year-old girl, but she was actually 19. Xiao Cui lives in Lincang county in Yunnan province. She is of the Wa ethnic minority group and has dark skin. She took the night bus to Kunming with her mother, which took more than 10 hours. After such a long bus ride, both of them seemed weary. Xiao Cui said her mother does not know Mandarin, nor is she literate, so she seldom went out. She experienced motion sickness, but at least they arrived in Kunming.
Their family is a single parent one. Xiao Cui's father died when she was quite young. Her mother has been taking care of the whole family. They have over an acre and a half of fields, which they planted with tea and a little tobacco and corn. They earned about 4,000 RMB ($600 USD) from the fields last year. With government subsidies, they earn a total of about 7,775 RMB ($1,200 USD) a year. Xiao Cui was diagnosed with congenital heart disease when she was in 9th grade, but they could not afford to do any treatment.
Xiao Cui said her mother works very hard. They even paid back the debt owed before her father’s death. Life has been hard for them. Her mother borrowed 20,000 RMB ($3,000 USD) for her operation. Debt has made their life even harder. I looked at her mother, who seemed unyielding. I asked Xiao Cui about her mother, and she told me her mother has a big temper, but they had been getting along well. I knew it was not easy for a woman to sustain the family.
As you can tell from the photo, the family lives in a shabby wood cabin. Her mother was smoking like a man. Xiao Cui has 2 older sisters. The 4 of them are all like sisters. Xiao Cui said her mother had serious stomach problems and gynecological diseases. She was too sick to do field work, so they had to rent out their tea fields for about 1,000 RMB ($150 USD) a year to someone else. Her mother did some temp work but their income was still unstable. They had to rely on their relatives for support. The family could not afford for her mother to have a check up in the hospital, so they had to rely on witchcraft to treat her mother’s illness.
Xiao Cui's 2 sisters dropped out from elementary school so they could help with housework. One of her sisters is 23 and the other is 21. They have reached their marriageable age, but the family is too poor to afford a wedding. The sisters felt like they should take care of their mother longer.
Xiao Cui is the only child in the family that had an education. Now she attends a vocational school in Lincang. She is weak and has shy smiles. I asked if she likes her major. She became cheerful and told me she likes Photoshop. She could use it to do advertisement design in the future. She wanted to find a job in Lincang so that she can take care of her mother.
They borrowed 20,000 RMB ($3,000 USD) from their relatives for the operation. This is a big amount of money for the family. I asked when they could pay off the loan. They laughed. Xiao Cui’s mother said they could not until Xiao Cui finds a job. I was wondering why they would laugh over the question. Since Xiao Cui is the only educated one in the family, they all put their hope on her.
On July 15, 2016 at 4:00, Xiao Cui finally completed her operation. Two days later, she was discharged from the hospital. I saw smiles on her mother’s face.
The last day when we met, Xiao Cui was doing her discharge paperwork. Her mother could not understand Mandarin, so she just kept us company. I remembered Xiao Cui said her mother was not well, so Xiao Cui could not leave her mother. But she still needs to earn money.
For a family that is living in a mountainous village, going through the mountains is the only way out. Finding a job outside of the mountains might be the quickest way to get rid of poverty. The path ahead for Xiao Cui is still long. We hope that LRS can help accompany her to harvest happiness and to handle all the difficulties.
Original article written by Qianhua, translated by Maggie Li, and edited by Yanyan Zhang and Carolyn D.
TFISH FUND BLOG
We update news and reports directly from the field written by our NGO partners daily.
PHOTOS & VIDEOS
IN THE NEWS