Wei Guiling works as a teacher at Yanxing Primary School in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province.
The school, which borders the city's biggest shanty town, draws more than 80 percent of its students from the families of migrant workers living nearby. Over 18 years of teaching, Wei, a dedicated Communist Party member, has made more than 1,000 visits to her students' homes, traveling more than 10,000 miles along every alley and backstreet of the Baijiabao shanty town.
"The kids are a spark of hope for their families," Wei said. "Since I am their teacher, I have the obligation to kindle that spark."
There used to be a student named Sun Xiwang in Wei's class. He dropped out because he had to go to work and earn money for the family. When Wei found the child at a construction site, he was shocked. He went running into her arms.
"Teacher, I cannot go back to school anymore," he said, crying. His father insisted he could offer the kid three meals a day. Who would feed him at school, he asked?
"I will cook your son meals," Wei said, "as long as he can go back to the classroom." Over the following two months, Wei helped the kid make up his missed lessons and cooked for him. At the end of the term, Sun showed great progress, scoring well on his exams.
"My son has no future staying with me," Sun's father said. "I am happy to leave him in your care."
Wei's story with these children originated from her first home visit, the memory of which still lingers in her mind. The room, less than 10 square meters, was dim and smelly without windows. A small table propped up against a kang, a traditional brick bed used in northern China, served as both dinner table and writing desk. The room was a complete mess. From then on, she began to worry about kids from these families.
Li Binglin was a lousy student in his class of 56 students. His classmates wanted Li kicked out. But Wei didn't give up. She helped him improve himself in any way she could. "As a CPC member, on no account should I let any student lag behind in school." Wei said.
It is never easy for someone to maintain balance between work and family, and Wei is no exception. While she was busy teaching migrant workers' children, her own son's studies slipped. He had to repeat a year in school. Her husband complained about her negligence of their son, which made her feel guilty. But Wei still couldn't find time to take care of her son in the following year. She often went to bed directly after work and fell right asleep. But her son still held his mother dearest, a common teacher, a responsible teacher and a great mother.
At Yanxing Primary School, Wei Guiling serves as a good example for her fellow colleagues. She was the annual character of "Moved Harbin" in 2007, and the pacesetter of Harbin in 2008. She was also often awarded by the provincial and district government. "Being a CPC member means doing more than others." Wei said. Learning how to love children from migrant families is the key to a teachers' work. Wei's action has inspired her workmates. They take the students home for meals and save money to reward students who do well in their studies.
The students are also inspired by Wei Guiling. At the site of a school donation for Sichuan earthquake victims in 2008, a student in the 5th grade opened his carefully-folded handkerchief and took out 50 yuan. The family lived on social welfare, but still found the money to make a 50 yuan donation, a big sum for such a poor family.
The seeds of love, once planted in the young generation, will sprout up and grow. "There are many workers like Wei Guiling at our school," said Wang Dan, Yanxing Primary School's principle. "Students can ask the teachers for help anytime, anywhere. 'Not One Ignored' is our motto."
It's not uncommon for many students to be caught up with their financial troubles. But thanks to Wei Guiling and her coworkers, the students will never be helpless.