Change of 'Snowflake Boy' brings hope for better future

By Chen Lufan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 15, 2019
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Wang Fuman, from Ludian county, an impoverished mountainous area in southwest China, first attracted public attention online through a photo taken by Fu Heng, the principal of his school. Released in January 2018, the photo showed Wang arriving at school with red cheeks and icicles in his hair after walking more than four kilometers in frigid temperature. Netizens nicknamed Wang 'Snowflake Boy' and the photo quickly brought the lives of this boy and other left-behind children in China’s poor rural areas into the spotlight. 

A Photo taken by Fu Heng, the principal of Zhuanshanbao school, shows Wang Fuman arriving at school with red cheeks and icicles in his hair after walking more than four kilometers in frigid temperature. [File photo]

Wang lived with his father, a 10-year-old sister, and a sick grandmother. His mother had left the family three years earlier, overwhelmed by the family's heavy debt and hopeless situation. 

Fu, who originally shared the "Snowflake Boy" photo on social media, said he did so because he was not only struck by Wang Fuman's appearance, but also by the boy's stoic attitude. Wang has never missed a day of school, no matter how many times he has fallen on the slippery mountain road or been ridiculed because his mother had left the family.

The image attracted donations from the public and brought change to the lives of the boy and his schoolmates.

The most immediate change was that the boy was offered several memorable "firsts," including a first visit to Beijing and a tour of the SWAT team's headquarters People's Public Security University of China, an ideal for a boy who dreams of becoming a police officer. 

Li Yifei, a professor at Beijing Normal University's Faculty of Education, said the visit to the capital would be beneficial because it would give Wang Fuman a sense of purpose and something to aspire to. 

"I just want to study as hard as I can so I can become a real policeman and catch criminals," said Wang.

Wang Fuman stands before a building of his school. [Photo by]

There have also been changes at the school. With the help of civil groups and local government, an old teacher dormitory has been converted into a new one for students with new electric heaters. Wang Fuman moved into the new dormitory in the middle of 2018 along with 72 other students. In addition to new dorms, the school now has a new lab and classrooms for painting and computer science.

Chen Furong, director of the Ludian education department, told Xinhua News Agency that they raised more than 800,000 yuan (US$124,772) from various sources to carry out renovation work on the school.

"Care and attention make the students feel the warmth of the society and encourage them to realize their dreams," Fu told a reporter from People's Daily.

Wang's case sparked aid appeals in Yunnan province. To give more children like Wang a better Chinese New Year festival, Yunnan Youth Development Foundation launched a charity program in January of 2018.

To date, the campaign has raised almost 3.5 million yuan and benefited almost 7,000 children. 

"We must not forget that there are so many children like Wang in China. Only poverty alleviation can help to reduce the number of parents leaving their children in the countryside, and provide children with a healthier environment to grow up in," said professor Li.

For Wang's family, the year 2018 proved to be a turning point. Wang's father found a job in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, earning about 200 yuan per day, a middle or higher income level in the locality. His mother has come back to take care of the family. They have moved into a new house thanks to a poverty alleviation program backed by the local government. 

The change in circumstances of Wang's family illustrates a deeper trend in this once-underdeveloped area.

In 2018, 15 impoverished villages in Ludian county, home to 17,857 individuals in 4,559 households, escaped from poverty. Comprehensive measures have been taken since 2018 to improve local infrastructure, industrial development, and the people's will to live a better life.

Tang Yadong, head of Xinjie town, where Wang Fuman lives, told a reporter from People's Daily that poverty alleviation funds in the past two years exceeded the total sum available in the past. "We are better off now. With better roads and better education, our children will lead a better life and our town is expected to shake off poverty in 2019," said Tang.

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