Youngest quake hero decides to go home

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Lin Hao (2nd left) returns to his hometown in Sichuan Province to continue schooling.

China's youngest hero has returned to his hometown in Sichuan Province after a half year in Shanghai, where he enjoyed free medical treatment and schooling but missed his home.

The family of Lin Hao, the 10-year-old boy who saved two classmates in the devastating Sichuan earthquake last May, has returned to Sichuan because of the city's high cost of living and a desire to live closer to their friends and relations.

Perhaps Lin and his parents could have stayed if they had cashed in on the boy's fame for personal gain. The child received several product endorsement offers that totaled in millions of yuan.

"I didn't want to sell my son's fame and image for money," said the father, Lin Dakun, a construction laborer. "I can get a good job and feed my family." But he said he might now consider such offers and use the money to help children who survived the earthquake.

"After I came back to Sichuan, I saw those poor kids who had lost parts of their bodies or parents in the earthquake, and I felt pain in my heart," he said. "I will try my best to help them."

Lin Hao started the new semester at the Yandaojie Primary School in Chengdu yesterday, after leaving Shanghai last month. The father said the students and teachers gave Lin Hao a warm welcome. He said the boy's dream now is to study hard and go to Tsinghua University.

The family now lives in an apartment in Chengdu, a five-minute walk from the boy's school. Both his parents have found jobs.

"Although Shanghai is a big and modern city and the people were very kind to our family, we are unable to adapt to the life there," Lin Dakun told Shanghai Daily in a phone interview yesterday.

While living here, the couple earned less than 3,000 yuan (US$439.5) a month but had to pay 2,000 yuan for the rent and about 1,500 yuan for other living expenses. The shortfall was covered by their savings.

The family also wanted to return to Sichuan so they could be closer to their relatives.

Lin Dakun expressed his gratitude to Shanghai. After the boy became a national hero, a local hospital offered a free hair transplant for the child, who suffered a head injury in the quake.

And a local primary school allowed Lin Hao to attend for one semester for free.

The child's bravery had captivated the nation. While buried in the wreckage of the quake, Lin Hao organized his classmates, singing songs to encourage them.

After struggling from the wreckage, he returned and carried out two of his classmates. He was selected to walk with basketball superstar Yao Ming leading all the Chinese athletes during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

(Shanghai Daily February 17, 2009)

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