Old man with a Samaritan heart aids needy students

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 28, 2018
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The silhouette of a hunchbacked man is often spotted pedaling a tricycle at night through the streets of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province — collecting recyclable garbage.

People may often mistake the man, 86 years old, as a vagabond, but in reality he is a retired veteran living on a comfortable pension of more than 6,000 yuan (US$965) per month. The nocturnal scavenger, a Mr. Wang Kunsen, sells the collected plastic bottles, boxes and defunct home appliances to make money to finance students in need who may otherwise drop out of school due to poverty.

Wang's first benefactor was an impoverished girl to whom he granted 5,000 yuan a year for four straight years, enabling her to finish her undergraduate education.

According to Wang, he knows the misery of being illiterate and understands the joy of being able to resume schooling. Having lived through one of China's turbulent eras, he can relate based on his own life experiences.

Born to an affluent family in Linping, suburban Hangzhou, in 1932, Wang was afforded a carefree life until the age of five by the stable income of his father, a railway staff member.

But following the 1937 Macro Polo Bridge Incident, when Japanese troops invaded China in full scale, the railway staff were dismissed, which deprived the family of their income and forced them to move to Shangyu, an outlying area of Shaoxing in the same province.

Then, in 1939, the life of the family deteriorated further after Wang's mother died from a disease caused by the biological weapons carried by the Japanese invaders. The death of his mother struck a blow to the family, pushing Wang's elder sisters and brother to leave home. In the ensuing years, Wang lived with his father in dire poverty.

Apart from building railways for the Japanese for a meager wage, the father and son sold homemade cigarettes they assembled by picking up used stubs and gluing them to rolled papers filled with tobacco, just to earn a little extra money to survive through these difficult years. As Wang recounted his past during an interview with Guangzhou Daily, tears trickled down his cheeks.

When his father managed to save some money at the tail end of the War of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945), Wang was admitted to school at the age of 12. "I entered school at such an late age that I can certainly understand the pain of being denied access to education," he explained.

In 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, Wang was admitted to a secondary school in Hangzhou, but a year later he joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA), moving to the northeast part of China.

After many years in the PLA, Wang's wife was unable to withstand the cold weather of the northeast, so he decided to leave the army and return to Hangzhou, where the couple worked for what is now the Zhejiang University School of Medicine. During those years, Wang taught courses in national defense and organized military trainings for students.

"I was a Staff Officer, an expert in warfare, so I was eager to have an influence with my professional knowledge," he said.

During his 15-year tenure, Wang donated money to hundreds of students to cover their miscellaneous fees, and his subsidies carried on even after he retired in 1993.

Several years following his retirement, he was deeply moved by a photo of an eight-year-old country girl with wide-open eyes. The girl's name was Su Mingjuan, from Jinzhai, Anhui province, and her photo had been used by the China Youth Development Foundation in the promotion of Hope Schools, which were established to readmit rural dropouts. Su, who was now working as a banker in Anhui, had the orbit of her life completely changed by the donations and support of the larger society.

Her photo inspired Wang to begin selling garbage to help children living in poverty. His son protested, however, saying his scavenging brought shame to the family.

"I don't steal or rob. I finance students in need. That should be a good thing to do. So I won't listen to him," the old man insisted.

In 2012, he contacted a poor girl via media and offered his aid to her. To fulfill his commitment, he began going out to collect in the middle of the night.

"The scavengers working in the daytime are trying to earn a living, so I shouldn't encroach on their interests. That's why I chose to work by night. As a retired man I have plenty of time during the day to sleep," Wang explained.

The girl he funded since 2012 sent her graduation photo to Wang. Seeing her in her graduation gown, Wang said he was so happy. Since he never had the chance to put on his own gown, the girl fulfilled his dream.

To expand his dream even farther, Wang will keep donating to several other students, saying he won't stop helping them until his last moment in life.

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