Little Red Scarf is in Lanzhou, Gansu and Yunnan province and provides financial support and encouragement to children suffering from congenital heart disease. In addition, they provide families with post-operative care and help the children sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Little Mei is the 310th child to be supported by Little Red Scarf in collaboration with Lanzhou Military General Hospital. On January 2012, her parents accompanied Little Mei to the hospital. This child gave me a deep impression. When her parents took her to the hospital, 12-year-old Little Mei was skinny and small. Her family brought half a bag of oil bread. During their time in the hospital, her parents only bought food for Little Mei during meal times and drank water and ate bread themselves.During their time in the hospital, Little Mei’s father was talkative and optimistic. He says that, out of their three children, Little Mei is the smartest. When asked what he expects of Little Mei, her father responds, “Of course we want her to attend college. We invested so much in this child, she has to get into college.” (To learn more about Little Mei)
Three years after her surgery, when we met Little Mei again, she changed dramatically. Little Mei is tall and healthy. She goes to middle school in the city. We waited for her in front of her school for her school to end. But the sky started raining. Although we were blocked by umbrellas, Little Mei and I recognized each other in the crowd at the same time. When I saw her, I screamed in surprise “How tall you’ve grown!”. She ran towards us, clearly taller than her classmates.
Little Mei took us to her rental apartment near her school. Because the school did not have dorms or a cafeteria, the local rental apartments became the dorms for rural students attending school in the city. Rent from these apartments also became a main source of income for this village. Little Mei and her cousin rented an apartment together in this complex. The apartment is on the left side and is about 15 square meters. The cost is 950 yuan per semester. This small two story building houses 19 students in total. The landlady is a middle-aged woman, who is warm and caring. When she heard that we wanted to come in, she wanted to know who we are. She told us that all the parents of the kids live hard lives. She needs to care for these kids so they will have bright futures. We joked with her that her apartment complex is the cradle for future college students.
The landlady provides all of the furniture in their room. The two small beds are very simple. The two children used old books to prop up a leg of the leg, which looks very unstable. They only have a two and a half hour break for lunch, so the two kids began preparing lunch as soon as they got home. They have clearly defined tasks: one cleans the vegetables and another cuts them. The two girls are very fast. The potatoes were cooks in a flash. Little Mei told us that the potatoes and cabbages are all from home. The cooking oil is also. The two would sometimes buy some noodles or buns. Cooking for two saves money overall. Each person only needs 28 yuan a week, an average of 4 yuan per day. In the mornings their school offers a free nutritional breakfast, including a bag of milk, an egg, and some bread. If they did not feel full in the morning, they will eat an extra bun. Little Mei’s older brother and sister go to high school elsewhere, where they do not offer free breakfast. Little Mei will save some milk to give to her siblings during the weekend.
We learned that a regular breakfast, one dish with buns, around Little Mei’s school is 3 yuan, 4 yuan with an egg. But to Little Mei 4 yuan is her food budget for the entire day. Realizing this, I felt self-indulgent for eating a 4-yuan breakfast that morning.
We showed Little Mei photos of her during her stay in the hospital. Little Mei told us that she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease when she was 10 months old, but because her family did not have the financial means to support her surgery, she had to wait until she was 12 years old. Before the surgery she could not hike in the mountains because her chest will feel stuffy and she will feel short of breath. After her surgery she has a healthy body. She can now participate in physical education classes. There are 62 students in her class. Little Mei’s test scores are always in the top three. She is the vice-president of the class and the physics class representative. Little Mei says that if she did not have Little Red Scarf’s help, she would not have the grade and life she has now. She wants to study hard, get into a good high school, a good college, and later help other children and people in need.
Little Mie told us that she has some homework that she needed to complete during lunch and asked us to wait a little. My coworker Aiju and I discreetly when to the neighbors and asked for a few bricks so we can prop up their bed. We also discovered the notes Little Mei posted on her wall: dad and mom: please stop fighting. If there is love there is hope. I hope that my family does not have any fighting. I hate fighting. A happy family will lead to a better future.
Little Mei tells us that her father is very hardworking, lugging bricks with a tricycle at the brick factory. He works from 6 am in the morning to 8 pm at night. Their family owns ten mu of mountainous land, which is planted with wheat, corn, and potatoes. Her mother, who has back pain, does all the farm work. Her paternal grandmother has high blood pressure. Sometimes when they are very tired from a day’s work, Little Mei’s father and mother lose control of the their temper… Little Mei and her brother and sister require 20,000 yuan each year to study in the city, which is 70 percent of the entire family’s earnings. When her brother and sister get into college, the family’s financial burden will be even heavier. Little Mei is very considerate. When she talks of her family, we can see tears in her eyes. We believe that this is why she spends only 4 yuan on food every day.
It soon became time to go back to school. Little Mei tells us that their classrooms are very high-tech, with multimedia boards. She asked us to go look. When we arrive we really saw a large screen in the middle of the blackboard. As Little Mei organizes the podium to create a good environment for the teacher who will teach in the afternoon, she tells us that if they went to school in the countryside they would have never seen the modern technology. She truly values her studying environment. It seems like her parents’ choice of sending her to school in the city was right. Just like her father’s expectation form three years ago: “We invested so much in this child, so she must get into college,” we can feel the growing confidence in Little Mei. Health gave her more self-confidence. Gratitude taught her to treasure what she has. We look forward to Little Mei’s good news.
Original article written by Guan Ying, translated by Allison Zhang, edited by Yanyan Zhang
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