Photographer a picture of charity
Updated: 2012-06-06 07:45
By Liu Zhihua in Mianyang, Sichuan (China Daily)
Zeng Yongchuan's photography business doesn't keep him busy, but the two children living in a nearby room do.
The two children, now in junior high school, were taken into Zeng's care three years ago so they could have a chance to escape the impoverished conditions of their mountainous hometown.
Zeng Yongchuan, a photographer who remains devoted to volunteer work despite being diagnosed with lymphoma, checks photos on a laptop in a hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Liu Xiaoqing / for China Daily
"I just want to do something good," said Zeng, 39, who hopes to provide them a better education and a better future.
He has been doing volunteer work since 2004, when he established the first volunteer anti-pickpocket team in Mianyang, Sichuan province, to help police catch thieves.
In the first year, the team caught more than 50 thieves, and became recognized nationwide. But Zeng was not happy.
He noticed that most of the thieves were teenagers. Many were only 8 or 9 years old, children left behind by migrant-worker parents.
As Zeng learned more about the young thieves, he believed that if they received a better education in a better living environment, the course of their lives could change.
So he started to raise money and identified kids in need.
"I was like a bridge between those children and good-hearted people," Zeng said. "All the money was sent to their teachers directly and was spent on their schooling."
"People trusted him, and were willing to help," said Huang Wei, a fellow charity worker.
Then in 2005, Zeng was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The disease was finally brought under control in mid-2007, but it cost him a job at a real estate company, as well as his car and his apartment, which he sold to pay for treatments.
He and his wife, who have one son, decided to open the photo studio to make a modest living.
When a massive earthquake struck Sichuan in 2008, Zeng was among the first people to rush to help victims, and because of the reputation he had built among volunteers, he again became a trustworthy channel for donations.
"Zeng is a good man. He manages to continue helping others, although his own life has been damaged by cancer," said An Ran, a resident in Mianyang.
"After surviving cancer and the earthquake, I've become more sure that I will just follow my heart to lead a happy life," Zeng said. "And helping others makes me happy."
Once he visited three remote villages in Pingwu county at the invitation of a friend.
"I went to a world I had never been to," Zeng recalled.
Many houses looked as if they would collapse, children wore clothes passed down from one to another, and people lived next to pigs in their houses.
In the only school serving several villages, there was only one ball for gym class.
"It is impossible for them to change their fate if they receive an education in such an environment."
In 2009, Zeng visited Sun Village, a non-governmental charitable organization in Beijing that provides foster care and education for children of convicts.
He was deeply impressed.
Once back in Mianyang, he managed to set up Love Home, based on his network of philanthropists, which brought rural children to live and study in Mianyang so they could compete with urban children in a relatively equal environment.
Love Home has since become home for two girls and one boy.
It took time and patience to help them adjust to life in the city, Zeng said.
In the first few months, the children quarreled and fought a lot and got sick again and again.
"They were very introverted, and trusted only me," he said.
One of the girls, who was cross-eyed, received treatment and her eyes are now fine.
The other girl has returned home to Beichuan county because it has been rebuilt since the earthquake and has better school facilities.
The boy has become lively, and was voted head of the class.
When he goes back to his home village, everyone is astonished at the change in him.
"I am happy about their changes, and I hope Love Home will help more kids," Zeng said.
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