Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Dec 02nd
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Home Our Missions Mission of Charity Hopen in the Karst Hills - Working so hard for so little

Hopen in the Karst Hills - Working so hard for so little

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Article Index
Hopen in the Karst Hills
The few who have escaped
A reunion
Working so hard for so little
Help from the outside world
All Pages
Working so hard for so little
The scarcity of success stories does not do justice to the villagers because it is not for lack of effort on their part. Rather, it is because their homeland does not produce much other than poor parents and children.

Luo De-chang (羅德昌), 41, is just one such casualty of this land. Breaking ranks with his ancestors, Luo gave up farming at Pingyan a few years ago and left with his wife to work in far-off Guangdong Province. They went there with the hope that they could earn a respectful living in that prosperous province. They left their son behind at home with Luo’s parents, who also tended the family’s meager piece of farmland. They maintained this arrangement for several years, until the aging parents could no longer work in the field. The scant income that Luo and his wife made in Guangdong was insufficient to support his household. So the couple decided to move back home and farm again.

Now their corn brings in about 400 yuan (US$52) a year, and it costs about 75 yuan a semester for their son, Luo Xiao-you (羅小友), to attend school. Luo often needs to borrow from others to make ends meet. Small wonder that he and his wife feel constant financial pressure to take Xiao-you out of school, which they almost did at one point. But Xiao-you is the only person in the family to have ever attended school. Luo and his wife never attended school. And look how little they can earn, here at home or in Guangdong Province. The couple is bent on keeping their son in school. Otherwise the chances are too great that Xiao-you will follow his parents’ path into a life of extreme poverty and misery.

Xiao-you, an eighth grader, seems much older than his years. He used to resent the fact that he couldn’t have a more carefree home and school life. He used to resent being a child from a poor family, lacking just about everything but despair. As he grew older, he gradually came to understand that he could not keep asking for things from his parents, who were already aging prematurely because of the constant struggle and hardship to provide for the family. His young mind felt that the future looked quite grim.

Tzu Chi has been awarding scholarships to help poor students finish school. This brightened Xiao-you up a bit. "I promise to get good grades at school so that I can bring a little comfort and smiles to my parents," Xiao-you said.

He walks to school at 6:00 in the morning. The school lets out at 7:30 at night, but he stays on to study until 10:00. His efforts have helped him rank high in his class and earned him a reputation as an excellent student. When asked why he studies so hard, he replied, "I want to enrich myself. I want to have knowledge and skills. Also, how can I not study hard when my parents are working so very hard to support our family?"

"If possible, I would like to travel the world," Xiao-you adds, "to expand my horizons and knowledge." He said that he would like to attain a good command of English. He said that he does not want to leave Pingyan; instead, he would like to be a scholar and find better ways for his people to make a living. He also would like to be able to fix up his parents’ house so that they can have a more comfortable life.

Li Jian (李劍) dropped out of school because his parents couldn’t afford the tuition. Fortunately, he was able to resume schooling on a Tzu Chi scholarship, which enabled him to go back to fourth grade at the age of 13. Normally, he and his two-year old brother are the only inhabitants of their home. Working in an out-of-town coal mine, their father is rarely home because he lives near the mine and only comes home once a year. His mother died two months before our visit of a liver disease that was brought on in part by overwork at the coal mine. Jian therefore has multiple roles to play at home. He is the father, mother, and big brother to his little brother, and he is also a student. When we entered his home, Jian was preparing food for the pigs that his family was raising for sale.

He is afraid of also losing his father to overwork, so he begged him to quit his mining job. His father replied, "Jian, you and your brother both need to attend school. If I don’t dig coal, what can I do to earn your tuition? Further-more, like your mom, I never went to school and I’m totally illiterate. What other jobs could she and I have gotten? What other work can I possibly do now? Your mom and I didn’t have a choice then and I still have no choice now. Our predicament was caused by the fact that she and I never went to school. For this reason, you and your brother must study hard so you can earn a better living. Get a good education. Remember this well, son. Don’t follow in our poor footsteps. Never!"


The Beauty of the Jing Si Abode


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Jing-Si Aphorism