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 Zhuan is the 67th child to be supported by Little Red Scarf in Gansu Province. On May 31st, 2010, 8-year-old Little Zhuan successfully underwent surgery. From then on, her parents did not need to worry about her condition anymore. After the surgery, LRS staff communicates with the child’s parents each year to learn about how the child is recovering and her family and living conditions. (To learn more about Little Zhuan)
During December of 2014, when LRS staff called Little Zhuan’s father for the fourth time, he says that Little Zhuan is 13 now and is pretty healthy. She just catches the cold more often than regular kids. Little Zhuan is in fifth grade now and has good grades. When our staff asked how Little Zhuan’s father was doing himself, he became sad and told us that two months before Little Zhuan’s surgery, he was diagnosed with diabetes. The doctor told him that, judging from the symptoms, he had the illness for at least three years. This proved the old proverb that “luckiness does not in pairs while bad luck never comes alone.” From that time on the child’s father could not do heavy work, so the weight of supporting the family had to be borne by Little Zhuan’s mother alone.
On March 18th, 2015, my coworker Aiju and I visited Little Zhuan’s family. We passed Little Zhuan’s school on the way from the township to her home. Her elementary school is next to a temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, so her school is named “Goddess of Mercy Elementary School.” We learned from the principal that Goddess of Mercy Elementary School is a complete elementary school, meaning that it offers 1st through 6th grade education for its students (most rural elementary schools are divided into primary elementary school and high elementary school, with primary elementary school being 1st to 3rd grade and high elementary school being 4th to 6th grade).
When we got to the school, it happened to be around lunch break, so children with homes close by went home to eat lunch, while children with homes that are far away stayed at school. Some children were playing and eating at the same time with steamed buns in their hands. When we asked the principal why students don’t go home during lunch, the principal replied that the child who lives the farthest away takes one and a half hours to go home, so the two and a half hour lunch break if not nearly enough for them to go home for lunch. Little Zhuan needs to walk for half an hour on mountain roads to go back home, so she does not return home for lunch either. We wanted to take a photo of the children who are eating steamed buns while playing, but they ran as soon as they saw us. Only the little boy circled below was watching and eating his steamed bun as we talked with the principal. The principal told us that the school has over 120 students and 7 teachers. Over 30 students cannot return home for lunc
There is a pingpong table in a corner of the playground. The table is this school’s only sports facility, which is of course taken over by boys. The funny thing was that during break, some children were playing happily without eating. When m coworker Aiju asked them why they don’t return home for lunch, they told her that they live too far away. “So you don’t eat dinner then?”, “Mhm,” “You are not hungry?”, “Of course we are, but we just have to deal with it!”. The children’s answers caught us by surprise.
Little Zhuan did not have core classes that afternoon, so we wanted her to take us to her home. Little Zhuan’s teacher and principal are very responsible and asked us for our IDs. We called Little Zhuan’s father so he can inform the teacher of the situation. But the teacher still wanted to be safe, so he sent students who are from the same village to go home with Little Zhuan. Little Zhuan is very shy and does not like to speak much. She does not utter a word no matter what her teacher says. Later we bargained with the teacher to only have another student go home with Little Zhuan because too many students would create a scene. After we left the school we began to walk on mountainous roads, which was not our forte. The two children walked ahead of us, and disappeared with every bend of the road.
It was springtime, but we did not find the fields blossoming with flowers. We even found a patch of snow on a side of the road. We got excited just seeing a patch of green. Little Zhuan was much more fit than we are. She and her classmate were always far ahead of us. We could see two pink dots on the country road. This road to their school is far from smooth. If not for her surgery, Little Zhuna would have a very hard time traversing this road…
We finally arrived at Little Zhuan’s home. This path takes the children half an hour to walk, but we took a full 50 minutes. Little Zhuan’s home did not change and is just like the description in her profile 5 years ago for the surgery. There are 5 rooms (but actually only three have doors). Aside from the front, which is made of bricks, the other three sides of the house are made of mud. After the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, the house had cracks on all walls because it lacked proper support.
Little Zhuan’s father had diabetes for over 7 years. The past few years he couldn’t work in cities, so he had to raise sheep to sustain the family. From last year, sheep prices dropped, so he could no longer provide living costs of the family. Little Zhuan’s older sister goes to high school in the city and needs at least 10,000 yuan a year. Desperate, Little Zhuan’s mother worked at a brick factory in Shaanxi last year after relatives recommended her. She earned 24,000 yuan in 7 months. This year after the spring festival Little Zhuan’s mother planned to find work somewhere again, but the children did not want their mother to leave, especially Little Zhuan’s 9-year-old brother. Their father promised them that this year he would not let their mother work far from home again. He wants to have his wife home to take care of the two children. At the end of last year Little Zhuan’s father sold 30 sheep, leaving two goats to provide for the family’s nutritional needs, and earned 18,000 yuan, clearing the debts accumulated over the past few years. Little Zhuan’s father plans to find work locally this year. If he can’t, he will raise pigs at home.
When her mother wasn’t home, Little Zhuan had to cook for herself after school. Now that her mother’s back, the home feels a lot more homely and she can take care of Little Zhuan’s little brother and father.This is the season for planting corn. The family’s two mu of corn needed to be plowed, so Little Zhuan’s mother wanted to do that soon. Little Zhuan’s father now needs to inject insulin twice a day. He buys the drug from Lanzhou three times a year. Drugs and injections cost 7,000 yuan a year. Now that he is experiencing the side effects, Little Zhuan’s father’s vision is weakening. To store insulin, the family specially bought a mini-fridge.
Little Zhuan’s father tells us that he is very thankful that Little Red Scarf still remembers their family. Now they do not owe any money, and if he and his wife work hard, the family’s sustenance is not a problem. It’s just that his health is declining. Little Zhuan’s grades are very good and will be testing for college in 7 years. He does not know if they can afford to send Little Zhuan to a university. We told him to not worry too much and to take care of his body. We can face the difficulties together. Little Zhuan’s father used to be a tile worker, specializing in building homes for others. If Little Zhuan’s father had been healthy, now their house should be like their neighbors – a brand new brick house with colorful tiles. All the changes were caused by disease. Hopefully Little Zhuan’s father will not be too tired and that his condition will stabilize soon.
Original article written by Guan Ying, translated by Allison Zhang, edited by Yanyan Zhang
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