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China: Community embraces orphan

Categories: East Asia, China, Digital Activism, Humanitarian Response, Labor, Photography, Youth

Late last month, a husband-wife migrant laborer [1] couple from China's poverty-stricken Henan province [2] working in Beijing [3] killed themselves, leaving two teenage children to fend for themselves. Last week, Beijing-based Sohu blogger Li Yuanyuan took her camera and went to the younger child's school to see how the community has reacted. In less than a week, the post [4] has already received over 1,200 comments and been viewed over 48,000 times.


“When I grow up, I want to send my love to people who need help, just like everyone who's sending me love today.” Standing beside the red donation box with a face covered in tears, Gong Jinghong gives a deep bow to the more than 1500 people present, many of whom cry as they enthusiastically applaud.
—This was the scene at 3 pm today at the Zhenhua School for Children of Migrant Laborers [5] in Dongxiaokou village, Changping district [6].

父母不堪贫穷 共同服毒弃命舍下10岁幼女

Father-mother, unable to stand poverty, swallow poison together, leave behind a ten year-old girl


“I want a home, a place that doesn't need to be that big, when I'm hurt, I can think of it…” As I walked up to the door of Zhenhua school, this is the song I heard, and my heart instantly throbbed with grief.

我知道,这首歌是特意为今天的募捐活动准备的,我也是特意为这次募捐来到这里的,被资助的是10岁的小女孩龚京红,河南省驻马店市上蔡县塔桥乡人,3月 28日晚上,也就是半个月前,龚京红47的父亲和39岁的母亲一起服下敌敌畏撒手人寰,丢下龚京红和16岁的哥哥。

I know this song was prepared especially for today's fundraising activity, just as I'm here especially for the fundraiser. Gong Jing, the ten year-old little girl being provided with financial aid, from Taqiao township, Shangcai county in Henan province's Zhumadian city, on the evening of March 28, just half a month ago, had her 47 year-old father and 39 year-old mother together swallow down some insecticide, letting go of this world, casting aside Gong Jinghong and her 16 year-old brother.


Gong Jinghong's parents came ten years ago to work in Beijing, and it was in Beijing that Gong Jinghong was born. Several years ago, her father Gong Xiaoyan was struck with a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving him half paralyzed, unable to work and feed the family and with responsibility to support the family falling upon Gong Jonghing's mother, who began driving an unlicensed motorbike to feed the four of them, delivering goods each night until midnight for an extremely low wage, making at most ten yuan each day. Not to mention having chengguans striking out at unlicensed motorbikes, leading to even the most basic of existence a problem for the family. Due to the family's needs, Gong Jinghong's brother dropped out of school early on, taking an apprenticeship at an electric scooter repair shop. Gong Jinghong, being too young to find any work, in addition to having good marks at school, remained all along at Zhenhua School for Children of Migrant Laborers, in grade four this year.


“Hello, Auntie, please sit down.” Just as I came into the office, a kind-looking little girl stood up and offered me her seat. After thanking her, I asked Principal Wan Junjie, “where is Gong Jinghong?”
“You're looking at her,” said Principal Wan, pointing to the little girl who had just given me her seat. With her calm eyes, the attentive and aware Gong Jinghong gave me a great surprise, it being so hard to see a ten year-old girl who in just one night lost both parents in the steadfast child before me. Suddenly, and not knowing why, I was afraid my questions would be another stab to her hurting little soul.

Photo one: Gong Jinghong has just given me her seat, standing quietly to one side.


“This is the child's uncle.” Principal Wan introduces me to the middle-aged man sitting next to Gong Jinghong. Jinghong's uncle Gong Xiyan manages to force a smile; I walk over and stretch out my hand out to shake his, and Xiyan tries to stand up for this, but has difficulty standing. At this time, I notice he's paralyzed on one side of his body.

Photo two: sitting next Gong Jinghong is her uncle, Gong Xiyan. Gong Xiyan is a hemiplegic.


I want to ask Gong Xiyan about the details behind Mr. and Mrs. Gong Xiaoyan's suicide because I don't want to put Gong Jinghong through too much, but seeing this little girl, I can't help but asking her some questions about this painful event she's been through.


“After Gong Jinghong's parents were gone, who was the first to notice?” I ask Gong Xiyan.
“Her,” Xiyan says, pointing to Jinghong. I can't help but ask this 10 year-old girl.
“Can you tell me, at the time, how did you find out?” I carefully ask Jinghong.


“When I got up in the morning, I went as usual to get my fifty cents from dad to buy some congee at school. I called them, they were facing the wall; nobody was answering me, so I nudged them, and they still didn't answer…..so I climbed up on the bed to look, and around my mom's nose and mouth there was blood, blood on the blanket and wall, too. I yelled loudly at them…..pushed them…..but neither of them would answer me. I was so scared……then I got on my bike to find my brother. Then, when I came back with my brother, we yelled at them, but they still didn't answer us, and my brother called the police….”
Jinghong staggers her way through the story, sometimes looking up at me, sometimes hanging her head, sometimes going silent, but there are no tears.
“When they were still here, did they say anything to you?”
“What did they say?”
“A while ago my mom told me that I have to keep studying well, that one day I must go to university. I miss my mom so much now…..” having said this, Jinghong says she can't go on, and begins to cry, but there's no sound, continuously wiping her tears with her hands and sleeves.


A teacher standing to the side tells me, “the day [her father] Gong Xiaoyan killed himself, he came to the school to see his daughter three times. They didn't leave either the son or daughter a will or even a goodbye note.”


Then, Jinghong cries again as she tells me what happened on the night of the 28th: “that night I went to bed around 9 pm. At midnight, I heard my dad crying, and I woke up. I some mom standing up on our big bed and dad kneeling in front of her. I didn't know what was happening, and I didn't ask. Then, I fell asleep again.”

Photo three: Gong Jinghong cries as she recounts to me the details after the fact.

Photo four: Gong Jinghong wipes her tears with her hand.


The ten year-old I see before me wipes her tears with her hands, this little girl who's lost her mother and father. I don't have the courage to keep on asking. But, nor do I know how to comfort her, so I say nothing, walk up and hug her shoulders.
At this time, Gong Xiyan sitting to the side begins to cry too. “My brother and sister-in-law felt they couldn't keep living, to take this step….”

Photo five: Gong Xiyan cries as he speaks of his brother and sister-in-law's desperation in life.

校长告诉我,3月28日龚小颜夫妇服毒自杀后,因为没有钱火化,一直等到4月9日,龚京红的伯伯从河南老家赶过来交了钱之后,夫妇俩的尸体才被火化,10 日,龚京红的哥哥、姑姑、大伯护送夫妇俩的骨灰回了老家。龚京红和叔叔龚喜颜因为学校要进行募捐留在了北京。

The Principal tells me that after Mr. and Mrs. Gong Xiaoyan killed themselves by swallowing pesticide, as there was no money to cremate them, it wasn't until April 9 when Jinghong's uncle had rushed over from their hometown in Henan to pay that the husband and wife's corpses were laid to rest. On the 10th, Jinghong's brother, aunt and uncle took the couple's ashes back to their hometown. Because the school was to hold a fundraiser, Jinghong and her uncle Gong Xiyan stayed in Beijing [7].

学校不忍放弃 组织师生捐款救助弱小女童
The school can't bear to give up, organizes teachers and students to raise money to save the poor little girl.


“If everyone could just give a little love, the world could become a beautiful place….” When I finish talking with the uncle and the girl and walk out of the office, the song in the school has switched to Wei Wei [8]‘s ‘Let the World Fill with Love‘.

Photo six: at the school fundraiser (1).


“This child is very smart, she scores in the top five on every test. This is why we don't want to let her drop out and have put on the fundraiser,” Principal Wan tells me.
At this time, over a thousand students are sitting nicely inside the school, on whose west side a red five-starred flag flaps in the wind, and below the flag are two school vehicles. Placed beside the school vehicles are several classroom desks, draped in red cloth, the speaker's podium. Surrounding the podium are students from such institutions as Peking University and Beijing Normal University, as well as staff from several charity organizations. The small school seems very crowded.

Photo seven: at the school fundraiser (2).

图八:募捐现场(三) 振华学校校长万俊杰作发言:
Photo eight: at the school fundraiser (3) Zhenhua elementary school Principal Wan Junjie gives a speech.

图九:募捐现场(四) 振华学校副校长胡老师作发言
Photo nine: at the school fundraiser (4) Zhenhua Vice-Principal Hu gives a speech.


图十:募捐现场(五) 龚京红和叔叔龚喜颜在募捐现场,父女俩听到老师的呼吁求助之后留下了眼泪。
Photo ten: at the school fundraiser (5) Gong Jinghong and her uncle Gong Xiyan at the school, both began crying after hearing the teachers calling for people's support.

图十一:募捐现场(六) 整齐的坐在一起的学生为募捐活动鼓掌。
Photo eleven: at the school fundraiser (6) The neatly-seated students applaud for the fundraiser.

图十二:募捐现场(七) 学生的家长和来京打工者也来到学校参加募捐活动。
Photo twelve: at the school fundraiser (7) Students’ parents and migrant laborers working in Beijing also came to the school to take part in the activity.

图十三:募捐现场(八) 学校校长第一个带头捐款。
Photo thirteen: at the school fundraiser (8) The school Principal takes the lead in making a donation.


When the fundraiser began, the first to donate were the administration, then the teachers, then those from the universities and charity groups, ending with the students as they lined up according to their grade and put their own spare change into the donation box.

图十四:募捐现场(九) 来自社会慈善机构的人员和老师在捐款。
Photo fourteen: at the school fundraiser (9) Staff from social charity groups and teachers donate.

图十五:募捐现场(十) 来自高校的人员在捐款。
Photo fifteen: at the school fundraiser (10) People from the universities donate.

Photo: the primary teacher brings money and a list of names of children who made donations.

图十六:募捐现场(十) 学生开始捐款
Photo sixteen: at the school fundraiser (10) Students begin making donations.

图十七:募捐现场(十一) 学生开始捐款
Photo seventeen: at the school fundraiser (11) Students begin making donations.

图十八:募捐现场(十二) 学生开始捐款
Photo eighteen: at the school fundraiser (12) Students begin making donations.

图十九:募捐现场(十三) 学生开始捐款
Photo nineteen: at the school fundraiser (13) Students begin making donations.


Following the donation program, Gong Jinghong walks up to the from and bows three times in a row to the audience.

图二十:募捐现场(十三) 龚京红向大家鞠躬表示感谢。
Photo twenty: at the school fundraiser (13) Gong Jinghong bows to the everyone in a display of gratitude.

图二十一:募捐现场(十四) 龚京红向大家道谢。
Photo twenty-one: at the school fundraiser (14) Gong Jinghong thanks everyone.


“Overnight, I lost both my mother and my father. Overnight, I lost my home. Overnight, I became a left and lonely little orphan…”
“Cruel reality has left me in excruciating pain and unable to face it. I've cried myself dry, my mind is blank…”
“I'll remember all you kind people forever, remember this special day. When I grow up, I want to love others just like you have, to help people, deliver them my love…”
Gong Jinghong cries as she finishes her words of thanks, moving everyone present, many of whom start to cry.

图二十二:募捐现场(十五) 听着龚京红的对大家说的感谢话,校长悄悄抹着眼泪。
Photo twenty-two: at the school fundraiser (15) Listening to Gong Jinghong thank everyone, the Principal quietly wipes a tear.

图二十三:募捐现场(十六) 副校长从龚京红上主席台的那一刻就开始就低着头,悄悄抹眼泪。
Photo twenty-three: at the school fundraiser (16) The minute Gong Jinghong came up on stage, the Vice-Principal hung his head and quietly wiped away his tears.

图二十四:募捐现场(十七) 很多人在龚京红鞠躬的那一瞬间都流下了眼泪。
Photo twenty-four: at the school fundraiser (17) At the moment Gong Jinghong gave her bows, many people began to cry.

Photo twenty-five: at the school fundraiser (18)

图二十六:募捐现场(十九) 很多学生也在悄悄擦眼泪。
Photo twenty-six: at the school fundraiser (19) Many students also silently wiped at tears.

图二十六:募捐现场(十九) 望着主席台上流着泪致词的龚京红,这位男生泪流满面。
Photo twenty-six: at the school fundraiser (19) Seeing Gong Jinghong crying as she speaks on stage, this boy teared up.

Photo twenty-seven: at the school fundraiser (20) Gong Xiyan can't hold back from bursting into sobs as he listens to what his niece says.

Photo twenty-eight: at the school fundraiser (21) Gong Xiyan can't stop from choking up.


图二十九、 三十:募捐现场(二十二、二十三)龚京红致完感谢辞之后,一些学生的家长和来京打工者纷纷拿出钱走到了捐款箱前。
Photos twenty-nine, thirty: at the school fundraiser (22,23) After Gong Jinghong finished speaking, some students, parents and migrant manual laborers one after the other go up to the donation box and put in some money.


Some students, aside from making donations, also gave Jinghong cards and books. One reporter bought some snacks and presented it to Jinghong. Jinghong opened up one box of jellies and passed them out to the children standing around her. I quietly watched Gong Jinghong, her extraordinary calm, understanding, it made it so much harder for me to bear.

Photo thirty-one: one reporter bought some snacks for Gong Jinghong.

Photo thirty-two: Jinghong doesn't speak, just silently hands out “the goodies” the reporter gave her to the kids around her.


Photos thirty-three, thirty-four: the children around Jinghong hold the jellies she's just given them. These kids, like Jinghong, come from afar, coming with their mothers and fathers who came to the rural outskirts of Beijing to seek work.

女童仍留北京 做保洁的姑妈收养小京红
Jinghong remains in Beijing, raised by her trash-collector aunt.


The Principal told me that they hope Jinghong can keep studying at their school, that they'll give her the maximum amount of care and assistance. For now, Jinghong will live with her aunt, who along with Jinghong's uncle, collects Beijing's litter for a combined living of 1,200 yuan per month; they have two children of their own, the oldest the same age as Jinghong.
Gong Xiyan had planned to keep his niece, but due to his failing body and difficulty walking, he's unable to care for 10 year-old Jinghong. Although, in the eight years since acquiring his disability in 1999, he's persisted in living along in Beijing, picking up scrap materials for a living.
“My wife and two kids are all back home, she works on a farm to take care of the kids.”
“Why don't you go back?”
“There's no scrap parts to pick up back in the countryside, but I can here. Aside from what I spend on himself, I'm still able to send home over 1,000 yuan each year. The kid needs to go to school, and she can't make much money working on the farm back home,” Gong Xiyan tells me.
Just as I'm about to leave the school, I walk up beside Gong Jinghong, looking again closely at this 10 year-old girl. She's sitting quietly on a chair, carefully and cautiously opening a card one student gave her, and inside I see written, “Happy Birthday, Gong Jinghong, I wish you happiness everyday, and forever!”
Turns out today is Jinghong's birthday, the same day her parents are being interred back in her hometown.

Photo thirty-five: in Gong Jinghong's hands is a card given to her by some students.

Photo thirty-six: The card reads: ‘Happy birthday to you, happiness forever,’ it turns out today is Jinghong's birthday, at the same time the day her parents are being laid to rest in her hometown.


Just now the school's Vice-Principal gave me a phone call, 8,228 yuan was raised for Jinghong from the over 1,500 teachers, students and people from different parts of society today. It's hoped more people will continue to care for and help her.