Zhou Biaoliang, 23, is an ordinary woman from a village in Bose, in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, but the luck of being chosen as one of the recipients of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's donated money via Project Hope has turned Zhou into a star.
Twelve years ago, the home of Zhou was burnt down in a fire, and the Zhou family with three school-age kids was suddenly thrown into financial difficulties. Zhou Biaoliang was forced to quit school.
"The sky seemed gray in those days. Overpowered by despair, I concluded my days of schooling were finished," Zhou recalled.
Zhou's fate was turned around as the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF), operator of Project Hope, decided to funnel 5,000 yuan (US$602) donated to Project Hope by Deng Xiaoping in 1992 to Shiren Village Primary School, later renamed Project Hope School of Pingguo County, in Bose, where Deng organized and led an uprising in December 1929.
Zhou Biaoliang and 24 other school dropouts were selected on the beneficiary list in 1992. Thanks to Deng's donation, they returned to school to continue education.
August 22 this year will be the centenary anniversary of the birth of Deng Xiaoping, a native of Guang'an, southwest China's Sichuan Province, who masterminded China's reform and open-up drive introduced in the country in late 1970s.
Thanks to the implementation of the campaign, China has witnessed earth-shaking changes over the past two decades, with millions of Chinese people being lifted out of absolute poverty and a general improvement in the living standard of the Chinese.
Deng resigned from the post of chairman of Military Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Part of China (CPC) at 5th plenary session of 13th CPC Central Committee in November 1989 and resigned from the post of chairman of Central Military Committee of PRC in 1990.
He passed away because of illness in Beijing on February 19, 1997 at the age of 93.
China faces serious challenges in providing universal education to its population of 1.3 billion and particularly to its rural population despite steady progress made in this field over the past years.
In some outlying mountain regions and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, many children of poor families still cannot afford to go to school, and every year about one million pupils drop out of school to help support the family.
The CYDF launched Project Hope in October 1989 with the purpose of helping poor school age children in rural areas to complete primary school education. Deng wrote the name of the project in his personal calligraphy.
Since its inauguration, Project Hope has received more than 2.2 billion yuan (US$265 million ) in donations from both domestic and overseas sources. The fund has been used to renovate and build more than 10,000 Project Hope primary schools and help 2.5 million primary school pupils in rural China return to school.
Guangxi alone has received 160 million yuan (US$19.3 million) in donated money which has been used to construct 530 Hope schools and to help 100,000 poverty-stricken children, including Zhou and her pals, continue education.
Zhou Biaoliang, who has now grown into a beauty, graduated from a local normal college in July 2000. She returned to Project Hope School of Pingguo County and has been teaching Chinese language there ever since.
"Grandpa Deng's words,'I'm the son of the Chinese people, I love my motherland and my people profoundly' impress me so much that I chose to teach at my Alma Mater after I graduated from the teachers' college so that more children in my hometown could become literate through my efforts," said Zhou.
Zhou was selected as the star of Project Hope in September 2000 and was sent to the Olympic Games held in Sydney in the same year as a China image presenter.
According to Zhou, 15 of the 25 beneficiaries of Deng's donated money have made their way directly to colleges of higher learning so far. Four of whom have found jobs upon graduation.
"As one of the beneficiaries of Project Hope, the best way to repay Grandpa Deng is to sow hope in the hearts of as many people as possible," said Zhou.
(Xinhua News Agency August 8, 2004)