The Finishing School

March 25, 2019
Editor: Wei Xuanyi

Liu Faying, teacher and organizer of a charity project, tutors a student in her class in Changyang Tujia autonomous county of Yichang city, Hubei province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

 

Mother, teacher and 'sister' to the charity she set up in 2005, Liu Faying has helped thousands of poor students to complete their education.

In 2015, Liu Faying, a Chinese teacher and organizer of a charity project she started in Hubei Province, received a message through her website from a man offering to help impoverished students to complete their education.

The sender asked for information about the students and said he was interested in offering financial support, and Liu guided him to the information he required on her website.

In less than 10 days, the man surnamed Dai from East China's Jiangsu Province had donated 230,000 yuan ($34,254) to help 12 young people to complete their studies through the website.

Not long after, middle school student Liu Haocheng — who lived with his disabled father in a dilapidated house in Changyang Tujia autonomous county of Yichang city, Hubei province —became one of the lucky recipients of Dai's donations. His mother had left home not long after he was born, and his father was later disabled in a mining accident, which prevented him from working.

"I spent almost half a year looking through websites offering to help impoverished students and tried to support students on some of them. But I found Liu Faying's website to be the most trustworthy for its openness and transparency," says Dai.

Liu is a 49-year-old deputy head of a primary school in Changyang County. She has been engaged in the public welfare effort for more than 14 years, ever since she started to use the online name Sister Yingzi to raise money for impoverished students in 2005.

Over the years, Liu and her team have paid thousands of visits to the homes of poor students to identify their specific difficulties, and posted details of their situation on their website. Potential donators can check the information and choose which students they want to help by browsing through the website. When students receive the money, they are required to contact the donators immediately to tell them how much they received. A legal adviser in Liu's team also conducts spot tests to check if the money has been sent in full to the students assigned.

Once the donation is completed, Liu updates information about it online, including the amount of money, the donator's online name and the receiver's name. By typing in the name of a donator or student on the website, contributors see how their donations are being used. Liu also puts down all of the information in her notebook, allocating a specific number to each student.

She encourages the students to keep in contact with their donators, by sending them greetings during festivals and announcing good news when they get good grades in exams.

The one-to-one model may seem to be inconvenient, but it has won the trust of many donators. Dai even donated 2 million yuan to establish a Sister Yingzi Scholarship Fund in 2016 to reward poorer students who make good achievements in their schoolwork based on his trust for Liu and her systematic approach to her undertakings.

To further dispel doubts from other netizens, she discloses her personal information online, including her name, school and telephone number.

According to Liu, she has now helped over 1,900 donators from a dozen countries to support more than 3,300 students. The amount of money donated has reached 20.6 million yuan.

Life story

Born in Moshi Town, Changyang County, Hubei Province, Liu Faying graduated from a teachers-training school in 1991. Her father believed "young people should experience more things" and asked her to apply for work in remote areas. As a result, she was appointed to work as a teacher in the poor mountainous village Huangbaishan that year.

She taught all subjects except for Chinese there. Since the school was really remote and students had to spend a long time getting to school, Liu was required to work for 10 days in a row before taking a break of four days. She returned home once a month.

"The village was very short of resources. The people were very poor, but they could not buy the things they wanted even if they had money. You could not find a vegetable market or barbershop there," says Liu.

She remembers that the school canteen could only offer hot water, but no food, to teachers. Instead, every teacher was allotted a piece of land to grow vegetables for their daily meals, and they had to cook for themselves.

"I could not grow vegetables at the very beginning, so I had to eat noodles every day, mixed with lard oil or thick broad-bean sauce I brought from home."

The electricity often failed and Liu grew afraid of the dark.

"We had to walk a long way to get to the toilet. Sometimes I went there at night with a kerosene lamp in my hand. But the wind often blew out the lamp and I was extremely frightened.

"I was famous for crying all the time. I cried when I was hungry, and when I was too afraid of darkness to sleep at night," says Liu.

Her students and their parents noticed her situation, and offered her a helping hand. The parents there taught her how to grow vegetables and often asked their children to take food to Liu. Female students accompanied her when she slept so that she would no longer feel afraid.

"We got on really well. My students were so kind to me," says Liu, who stayed in the village for more than 11 years.

Liu says she is grateful for the impoverished students' help, and she helped them in return, buying clothes and shoes for them when she went home. She also offered some students financial aid to help them overcome domestic difficulties.

Persistence

But she soon realized she could not help many people only by herself, and then began to use the internet to search for funding when she saw how convenient it was to use in 2005.

In 2010, she established her own website and formed a team of volunteers, including government officials, teachers, lawyers and accountants among others to help her in her charity work. Team members received no payment since Liu wanted to pass on all the funds from the donators to their beneficiaries, and volunteers used their own money to cover their expenses.

In the beginning, Liu encountered a lot of difficulties. Many people thought she had set up the organization to seek fame, and some even used bad language to insult her online. Her husband also thought the charity work was unnecessary and urged her to devote more to their family.

Faced with such problems and a heavy workload at home in 2007, she also considered giving up on the charity altogether. But when she thought of the 200 students relying on the charity's assistance at that time, she was afraid that abandoning the cause would have an adverse effect on their lives, so she persisted.

Liu has never regretted helping the students, saying: "I am a mother and a teacher, I can't bear to think that students would have to drop out of school because of family difficulties."

Her family members were also moved by her efforts and supported her in her venture. Her husband and son have also joined her team to help the students.

Liu has won much glory for her contribution and was elected as a deputy of the 13th National People's Congress in 2018.

"Some people use the internet for fun, some use it for fame, but Liu uses it to collect benevolence from all over the world," the organizing committee of Yichang's Top 10 Selected News Figures said of Liu during their awards ceremony in 2010.

Some of the students Liu helped later returned to make donations to help others, or became members of Liu's team. But she has never tried to contact any of them proactively once they have grown up as adults who can support themselves.

"Some students may feel grateful to us, but they would not like to talk about it as they would rather forget their painful childhood. We totally understand this. At the end of the day, we don't seek their gratitude. As long as they work hard and make a contribution to society, that's enough."

Liu inputs information online about the financial situation of impoverished students, whom she helps to go to school. [Photo provided to China Daily]

[Photo provided to China Daily]

 

(Source: China Daily)

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