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White collars help needy kids
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It's a regular school day, but the 476 primary students in tiny Guiping town in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region are wearing their best clothes.

They are waving plastic flowers, beating drums and performing traditional lion dance to welcome guests from Shanghai.

Excitement and happiness in their eyes, they receive gifts of candy, pencils and schoolbags at the Xinyang-Shirui Primary School.

More important, the school received 300,000 yuan (US$40,000) from the TV Drama Production Company of the Shanghai Film Group Corp to construct a new school building. The company calls the visit a "love journey."

The poetic, picturesque landscapes in the small villages of Guangxi can't hide the fact that many of the children there are still studying in shabby rooms.

This donation is one of a number of efforts by Shanghai's comfortably off people to help others. Over the National Day holiday, BlogBus.com and Sara Lee China Trading Co also delivered donations to a poor elementary school in Fenghuang, an ancient town in Hunan Province.

"Getting close to the lives in these poverty-stricken areas made us realize our responsibility as human beings," says Melody Zhang, a marketing employee with the Sara Lee. She took the bus to Hunan over the holiday.

If it weren't for their suntanned skin and cheap clothes, children there would be no different from those in big cities. They have innocent smiles and are always curious and optimistic, although most times they have to share textbooks and writing materials.

"Actually behind the village's facade lies a long history and distinctive culture," says Xu Pengle, vice president of Shanghai Film Group Corp. "We are very used to portraying the goodness of human beings on big screens. Now it is time for us to do a real philanthropic project."

Some crew of the new TV series "From Nine to None" - about the lives of office workers - joined this "love journey."

Zhang Wei, producer of the series and deputy director of the company, came up with the idea several months ago. He says that the inspiration came from the shooting of the series, a realistic portrayal of the office and personal struggles among white collars and gold collars.

"I just hope office workers will not limit their vision to the small things like promotion, payment or office politics," he says. "There are many other efforts that can make our lives more meaningful and fulfilling."

Yes, it's true, at least for Benji Schwartz, an American contestant in this year's "My Hero" TV show who calls the trip "very rewarding."

Over three days in the village, he took photos with children, played games with them and distributed gifts.

"I'm so glad that I can be part of this charity cause," Schwartz says on his personal blog about the trip. "The joy and smiles on their faces represent the hope that life offers each of us regardless of our circumstances. In the eyes of these children, I see the hope of Guangxi, and I believe its future is bright."

The construction of the new school building in the Guangxi village is expected to be completed in half a year. Zhang says the Shanghai Film Group Corp plans to involve more Shanghai residents in the project in the future.

Shen Jiandong is already involved. The deputy general manager of the Nantong Branch of the Asian Development International Transportation Corp decided to fund three girls and a boy in their studies.

"Some of them are from single-parent family," Shen says. "However, no matter how poor they are, they have a deep passion for learning."

The children will receive aid from Shen until they graduate from university. In the coming years, Shen will keep in touch with the children's families and take them around Shanghai and neighboring Jiangsu Province on vacation.

Shen is not the only person who has a good job in city but is eager to bring care and love to poor children in remote areas.

During the National Day holiday, BlogBus.com members, mostly young white-collar workers, drove together from Shanghai to Fenghuang, an ancient town in Hunan Province, where they made donations to a local elementary school.

"We received warm feedback from Netizens," says Chen Juanling, an official with BlogBus.

He says 878 people registered for the program. Finally 45 of them actually went on the trip from Shanghai to Fenghuang. After driving 2,000 kilometers, they donated 12,000 yuan to 20 poor students and visited their families.

Their care continues as they will keep in contact with the families and try to be helpful. "It's a good sign that more and more city dwellers are tired of bustling city life, driven by money and social status, and starting to show their concern for people in need," Chen says. "Helping others makes our life more meaningful."

(Shanghai Daily October 16, 2007)

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