Revisiting children in impoverished rural areas

China's nationwide poverty-alleviation campaign, which vows to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020, is set to bring a better life to these kids.

Childhood should be full of love and laughter. Yet some children have shouldered a much heavier burden. Just as an old Chinese saying goes, children in poor families are forced to grow up faster and become independent quicker than their peers.

   China's nationwide poverty-alleviation campaign, which vows to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020, is set to bring a better life to these kids.


   Zhou Tao, Yangcun Village of Suichuan County, eastern China's Jiangxi Province, finally bid farewell to his shadow "friend," a white gauze mask, after years of painful struggles.

   In March 2014, at the age of 13, the boy was disfigured in an accidental fire, in which 38 percent of his entire body was burned.

   Since then, Zhou has been wearing a mask and became "the boy behind the mask."

   "I dared not hang out," he reminisced. "The strange looks from passers-by made me uncomfortable, and it even led me into a spiral of self-loathing."

   With the love and support from his family and schoolmates, as well as years of continued rehabilitation, his wounded heart was gradually healed.

   "I'm recovering well, though obvious scars can still be seen on my face, neck, hands and feet," Zhou said. "Compared with five years ago, I no longer feel inferior, and now I go out alone now."

   Zhou's family was registered as low-income in 2017 and granted living allowances and subsidies for his surgeries. A surgery in 2018 cost the family over 36,500 yuan (about 5,108 U.S. dollars), 90 percent of which was reimbursed. The government also provides the family with low-interest loans to help them start their own business.

   "I hope my son could live a normal and better life," said Zhou's 43-year-old mother.


   Luo Meiwei, 12, and her younger brother are left-behind children in Shangyuan Village, Jiangxi Province. The two used to squeeze into a leaky, shabby house with their grandmother.

   "We had to finish homework before sunset as there was no electricity in the old house," recalled Luo, who now lives in a three-story cement building with three bedrooms and access to high-speed internet with the help of the local government.

   A passionate reader, she had famous lines extracted from her beloved novels pasted on the wall. The village library, which was built in 2015 with a rich collection of over 2,000 books, is her favorite place to spend her time.

   "The collection includes encyclopedias and books on agricultural technologies, Chinese literature and foreign novels, among others. The library has offered a window for kids in our village to know more about the world as many have no chance of traveling out of the mountains," said Zeng Meichang, a village official.


   In 2012, when Xu Na, from Xinshui County of Jiangxi, was just six years old, her mother was diagnosed with uremia, and her medical expenses cost all the family's savings.

   The originally well-off family of four could only live in a small space with a monthly rent of 200 yuan in 2014 when Xinhua reporters first visited them.

   To help reduce the financial burden, Xu, who was just 1.2 meters tall and weighed less than 20 kg, began to learn how to cook and wash clothes while taking care of her 3-year-old sister. Photos of her standing on a chair to cook moved many people across the country.

   When Xinhua reporters revisited them this year, the family had moved to a 100-square-meter new house thanks to the poverty alleviation relocation policy in inhospitable areas.

   "We now have our own house, and my father works as a chef at a local restaurant," said Xu. "I believe life will get better and better."

   Across China, more than 9.6 million poor people have been relocated to more habitable areas over the past several years, getting access to more job opportunities and better public services.

   Around 5.51 million people remained impoverished at the end of 2019, but China intends to lift them from poverty by the end of this year. The total number of people emerging out of poverty will have reached 100 million since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012.

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