Care­taker re­luc­tant to let ‘son’ go

A teacher said mov­ing to the US is the best op­tion for an 8-year-old boy who he helped to raise

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By LIU CE in Shenyang li­uce@chi­

Zhu Zhen­feng sawhis 8-yearold “son” Xiao Ao (as­sumed name) adopted by a fam­ily in the United States on Mon­day.

The boy with meningomye­lo­cele, a type of spina bi­fida, was aban­doned and sent to An­shan Chil­dren’s Wel­fare In­sti­tute in 2008. Two years ago, Zhu, the only male spe­cial-teacher at the in­sti­tute, took Xiao Ao to his own home to give the boy a chance of study­ing with healthy chil­dren.

“He wanted to go to school. But due to his in­con­ti­nence, no pri­mary school would ac­cept him. So I took him home and found a ru­ral school near my home,” the 34-yearold teacher said.

Two years passed in a flash and Xiao Ao be­came like a son to Zhu. “He is clingy. If I amon a busi­ness trip, he calls me many times each day,” Zhu said, smil­ing.

How­ever, they have now parted ways. “I am re­luc­tant to let him go to the US. But Iknow this is the best choice for him. He can have a nor­mal fam­ily life and get bet­ter treat­ment there,” Zhu said.

Be­fore the boy left, Zhu took the boy to see all the scenery around An­shan city in Liaon­ing prov­ince. “I hope he has a beau­ti­ful mem­ory of China.”

Xiao Ao is also un­will­ing to leave his “fa­ther”. He asked Zhu to teach him how to say “I want to go back China to see my fa­ther” in Eng­lish. “I will come back one day,” said Xiao Ao, cry­ing.

Xiao Ao is not Zhu’s only “child”. There are more than 100 chil­dren in the in­sti­tute and they all like to call Zhu “dad”.

How­ever, some of the chil­dren used to re­fer to him as an “aunt” or “sis­ter”, be­cause they had never seen a male teacher.

Zhu was born in a poor vil­lage of Hu­lu­dao city, Liaon­ing prov­ince. Due to a med­i­cal ac­ci­dent, he lost his right hand when he was 3 years old.

How­ever, he was not de­feated by his con­di­tion. In 2002, he be­came the first un­der­grad­u­ate from his vil­lage.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with hon­ors in 2006, he turned down many job of­fers and de­cided to work with dis­abled peo­ple.

Al­though he pre­pared him­self psy­cho­log­i­cally for the task, he was shocked by the con­di­tion of the or­phans in his first class. “There were many chil­dren with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties. They could not un­der­stand what I was talk­ing about,” he re­called.

Thus, he changed his teach­ing tech­nique and fo­cused on self-dis­ci­pline.

“They will leave the in­sti­tute one day. I want to teach them self-re­liance. To learn how to live by them­selves is very im­por­tant.”

Zhu de­vel­oped his teach­ing meth­ods. For chil­dren with cere­bral palsy, met­ri­cal rhymes can help them to learn mo­tor skills. For those with phys­i­cal prob­lems, he tries to dis­cover their po­ten­tial tal­ents and help them to learn newskills.

“In my eyes, they are nor­mal chil­dren. I try to find their strengths and en­cour­age them,” Zhu said.

His ef­forts paid off. Four or­phans have en­rolled in uni­ver­si­ties and 17 have en­tered tech­ni­cal sec­ondary schools since he started work­ing at the in­sti­tute, while oth­ers have learned skills such as cus­tomer ser­vices, weld­ing and paint­ing.

“For chil­dren, he is not a teacher, but a friend and a fa­ther. He stays with them al­most every day and does not re­ally have a per­sonal life,” said Wang Li, deputy di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tute.

“I un­der­stand that he is do­ing a mean­ing­ful job. But I’m afraid he will not find a girl­friend, which is im­por­tant at his age,” said Zhou Surong, Zhu’s mother.

“I used to have some blind dates. But most of the girls could not ac­cept my job. I hope I meet a girl who can un­der­stand and sup­port me in the fu­ture,” Zhu said.

I want to teach them self-re­liance. To learn how to live by them­selves is very im­por­tant. ”

Zhu Zhen­feng, teacher of An­shan Chil­dren’s Wel­fare In­sti­tute


Zhu Zhen­feng with his 8-year-old “son” Xiao Ao at An­shan Chil­dren’s Wel­fare In­sti­tute in An­shan, Liaon­ing prov­ince.

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