The heart of a village

Updated: 2013-03-27 07:42

By Liu Xiangrui (China Daily)

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 The heart of a village

Gyumey Dorje (center) visits herdsmen in a remote village in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Garze, Sichuan province. Provided to China Daily

The heart of a village

Nearly a year after he died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage, Gyumey Dorje's colleagues and local villagers firmly believe he worked himself to death.

The chief of Wari township in Dawu county in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Garze, Sichuan province, was only 33 when he died in 2012.

He typically worked almost nonstop for 16 hours, having meetings with villagers, visiting distant communities, and going to the county town to follow up on a project to equip local schools with solar water heaters, his colleagues recall.

One night it was so late when Gyumey and his cousin returned to his rented home that finding the entry guard sleeping soundly, they decided to spend the night sleeping in the car.

However, his cousin found that Gyumey didn't wake up the next morning.

"On hearing of his death, lots of villagers, old and young, cried out and many went a long way to his house to mourn him," recounts his colleague Ngodrup Gyantse.

Gyumey became a civil servant in Dawu after he graduated from a provincial Tibetan language college in 2001. In the vast rural area of Dawu, with an average altitude of more than 3,000 meters, Gyumey became chief of three townships.

In a relatively short career, Gyumey impressed both his colleagues and local farmers as a grassroots cadre with his outstanding work and devotedness.

Tenzin Borbu, 38, was both Gyumey's colleague and good friend. He witnessed how Gyumey made progress step by step with his hard work.

"My first impression was he was cordial and energetic," recalls Tenzin, who says Gyumey always wore a big smile when he greeted people. Tenzin recalls Gyumey studied law during his free time.

As one of the few who had received a relatively higher education in the area, Gyumey well understood the importance of learning. He even volunteered to teach at a primary school, which lacked teachers, for one and one-half years.

However, some farmers or herdsmen were not enthusiastic about sending their children to school. Short of hands, they wanted the youngsters to help work in the fields. Gyumey and his colleagues had to visit them door-to-door to persuade them.

Palden Gyatso, a 45-year-old farmer in Zhatuo township, was once preparing to let his three children drop out to help him with farm work. Gyumey visited his remote house more than 10 times to persuade him, he recalls.

"He was persistent and chatted with me. He told me how he grew up in a rural area and how education had changed his life," says Palden Gyatso.

Gyumey's words finally changed his mind. His 19-year-old daughter has entered a medical college now.

"She might have remained a farmer all her life, just like me, if she hadn't continued schooling," says Palden Gyatso, who is still grateful to Gyumey.

Gyumey's efforts are paying off. The township's school attendance rate has increased from 40 percent to more than 80 percent in recent years.

Child safety was always Gyumey's concern. In 2010, bad weather made a section of mountain road in Wari township prone to landslide, and a few pupils who lived on the other side of the mountain had to walk through the area to get school every day.

For two weeks, Gyumey picked them up and sent them back through the dangerous section each morning and after school, until the danger was cleared. The incident moved many parents.

Many schools in the area had limited facilities then. Gyumey organized local residents many times to upgrade the school environment by themselves, including building simple enclosures by hand.

Gyumey habitually kept notes of his work in his pocket. What might appear as trifles to others were important things to him, according to his colleagues.

While he was visiting an old woman who injured her foot and stayed at hospital in April 2012, Gyumey took out a dictionary and asked her to pass it to a fellow villager - after Gyumey had learned the villager's son was struggling to learn Chinese.

As a township head, Gyumey was often involved in solving the difficulties of farmers, promoting laws and policies, delivering subsidies, and helping upgrade local traffic.

He often traveled long distances on poor mountain roads to visit villagers. Sometimes he had to stay in villagers' home for days when they lived too far away.

"He often said that he came from a farmer's family, too, and simply wanted to do something for farmers, however small it might be," says Jueli, a local villager, adding that Gyumey treated villagers like his brothers.

Devoted to his work, Gyumey returned home only once or twice each month.

His house is the most ordinary in the village neighborhood. Piles of wood, prepared for renovating the home, have been stored for about 10 years. Some are decaying.

Gyumey had to persuade his father to postpone the reconstruction project again and again.

His father Palden, 66, admits that he used to complain to Gyumey that he was neglecting the family.

He got especially angry once when Gyumey failed to come home after Gyumey's then 3-year-old son was bitten by a dog and needed to be sent to hospital immediately.

"Sometimes I thought he was unwilling to come home because he preferred having fun with his friends. But when so many neighbors and villagers came to mourn him after his death, I knew I was wrong. He really did something for people," says the father, who adds that Gyumey sometimes asked for his forgiveness when they chatted.

Gyumey had been suffering serious hypertension for a few years. All the family could do was to remind him to take pills and rest frequently, Palden says.

(China Daily 03/27/2013 page20)