HELPING THE KIDS LEFT BEHIND
Located in a mountainous area of Sichuan province, Tianxing village has around 246 households, but those still living there are elderly or children. Most villagers choose look for work in the big cities because the village is poor and barely offers any job opportunities.
Like many others, in 2008 Xiang Ronghua went to Shanghai. She worked at a factory for a year and was promoted to workshop director. Then she heard about her mother’s ill health.
Xiang quit her job and returned to look after her mother. In 2015, the village set up a center which functions as both a nursery and a primary school for children left behind by their job-seeking parents. Xiang started work there as a substitute teacher, on a low salary.
In 2016, the village set up a recreation center for left-behind children, a project carried out under the Children Companion Plan initiated by The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. Xiang, thanks to her teaching experience, was authorized to become a companion at the center.
The center has recreational facilities and books for children and Xiang is responsible, as a companion, for taking care of around 100 youngsters.
The center opens once a week and during winter and summer vacations it operates on a daily basis. As well as being a place where Xiang, 35, a mother of a 6-year-old boy, can spend time with the children, it is also a location where businesses can provide donations and volunteers can help out.
Since its launch in 2015, the Children Companion Plan has provided help in more than 200 poverty-stricken villages in 20 counties in the provinces of Sichuan and Guizhou, benefiting nearly 100,000 children, according to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation.
China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs says there are more than 9 million children under the age of 16 growing up in their rural hometowns while their parents live and work elsewhere.