China Daily European Weekly - - Big Picture - LI JING

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.

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