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Program Helps Rural Kids Visit Capital
One hundred and fifty children from poverty-stricken areas in western China got the chance to tour Beijing on Thursday, through the efforts of the Charity Program for China's Children's Safe and Healthy Growth.

Their seven-day tour of the city is aimed at teaching them the culture of the country's capital and experiencing the daily lives of their urban counterparts.

The children are from 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in the country's west, including Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, Chongqing Municipality and the Inner Mongolia, Ningxia Hui and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous regions.

They can also continue their schooling thanks to the assistance of the program, which was initiated by the China Children and Teenagers' Fund in May 2000 to help children avoid dropping out of school, prevent illness and stay away from crime.

Thirteen-year-old Zhang Kuanhua from the Jianhe Wenquan Hope School in Guizhou Province expressed her gratitude to the program: "My family is very poor and my dad and mom work in the fields, and they forced me to drop out of school several times. This program helps me complete my primary schooling."

He Jiaojiao, from a primary school in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, also faces difficulties. Her parents died after she was born and she is being raised by her 65-year-old grandmother, who supports her schooling by collecting garbage.

"I will get good marks in school, and I think that is what I can do to thank those good people helping me," said the 10-year-old girl, adding that her dream of going to Beijing has finally come true.

Statistics reveal that at least 2 million children of school age are forced to drop out of school due to poverty and the majority of them live in western provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. More than 70 percent of children in the western part of the country also suffer from malnutrition.

More efforts from all circles of society should be made to care and support these children to ensure their healthy growth, said Gu Xiulian, vice chairwoman of the All-China Women's Federation and deputy-director of the China Children and Teenagers' Fund.

A fund of 130.91 million yuan (US$15.77 million) will be used to provide financial assistance for children's primary education in western China, she added.

(China Daily August 17, 2002)

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