Hong Zhanhui and his younger sister are not related by blood, but for the past 12 years Hong cared for his adopted sibling and sick father, working after school to make ends meet for the family.
Hong lived a tough but peaceful life until he was 12 years old. Then, on horrific day, in a psychopathic state his father killed his one-year-old blood related sister and deserted the family. Months later, a baby girl who had been abandoned by her parents was adopted by the household. Initially the infant, now named Hong Chenchen, brought much-needed laughter to a family that had led a hard life. However, the happy times didn't last long. Hong's mother left home a year later. The task of supporting the family then fell on the shoulders of Hong Zhanhui, who was only 13 years old at the time.
In addition to his mentally disturbed father, Hong also had to take care of his younger brother and sister. Everyday, he hurried along the road between home and school. Despite the hardships, he never gave up. In 1997, he was enrolled in a provincial-level high-school quite far from his home. So to tend to his three-year-old sister, Hong decided to take her to school with him. After a full day's study at school, he worked part-time to earn extra money.
In 2003, Hong enrolled in the Department of Economics and Management of Huaihua University in Hunan Province. Due to his special circumstances, the university agreed to allow him to attend school with his sister, and allotted them a single dormitory. Some teachers and students in the university wanted to help him financially, but Hong proudly refused this aid, preferring to stand on his own two feet, while even managing to help out another poor student with the money he earned from his part-time jobs. In the hope that his sister would receive a school education, Hong helped her to apply for admission to the Shimen Primary School near his university.
While many of his age were thinking of little more than play, the 13-year-old Hong was forced to take care of an infant sister, a young brother and a sick father. Over the past 12 years he has also had no choice but to do odd-jobs to make a living and support his own study. Hong has been asked the same question on many occasions, what do you want the most?? To have had a normal childhood like others, Hong replies, tears welling in his eyes.
Hong can also be objective about the difficulties in his past, the experience of overcoming such hardship has been a valuable experience for me. Now he is busy establishing a foundation to help poverty-stricken students. I know what it means if someone extends a helping hand when you are in difficulty, he says. The goal of his foundation is to build two new primary schools and help 500 educationally-deprived children to return to school in 2006.
So now, this remarkable young man, who has endured such unimaginable hardship, is working hard to realize his own dream of helping others.
(China Pictorial April 19, 2006)