Tong Lingling and Yang Wenjing greet each other with hearty smiles and hold hands cordially like mother and daughter.
The bond between the middle-aged woman and the 18-year-old is not maternal, but it is just as strong.
They are at the opening ceremony of the New Great Wall Project, an aid scheme for Chinese college students in need.
Tong Lingling is an employee of the August First Film Studio and Yang Wenjing, who comes from a poor family in eastern Chaoyang District, Beijing, has just been admitted to Tsinghua University.
Via the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), Tong will give 2,000 yuan (about US$240) a year to Yang until she graduates from the university.
Tong said that college students are the future of the nation: "What I have done is only what every citizen should do. I'm convinced what they will do for society is far more than what we have given."
So far, the foundation has received 2.8 million yuan (nearly US$340,000) and more than 300 needy students have been given money.
Official statistics show that by the end of 2001, China had 13 million college students and about 2.6 million are badly in need of financial help.
Sun Huijie, a girl from Yanqing county on outskirt of Beijing, lost her mother and grandfather in the past two years, and had a debt of tens of thousands of yuan. Her father, with a few goats, could hardly afford to cover her and her sister's living costs, let alone the tuition fees.
However, Sun said, "It is not our fault we are from poor families. The ability to deal with life's trials is the most valuable gift I have."
According to Kang Xiaoguang, deputy secretary of the CFPA, the project would help students to set up organizations in their schools, which would provide opportunities to help others and enabled them to build up confidence.
The name of the project, New Great Wall, meant that knowledge, love and talent would build a new Great Wall for China, he noted, adding that knowledge could change a nation's as well as a person's fate.
To ensure the funds are used properly, the project has stipulated that the student should write to their donor at least twice a year, Kang explained. The donor should remit the money to the CFPA via banks and the CFPA would publish all the information on its website (www.fupin.org.cn) and offer an annual report at the end of each year.
So far, the project has only been applied to Beijing. Next year, central and western China would be included, Kang said.
(Xinhua News Agency September 1, 2002)