Engineer grad aids poor areas

Updated: 2014-05-20 09:10

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Engineer grad aids poor areas

A girl in Xiaxiamen village, Qinghai, which Wu visits. Wu Dibao/China Daily

Wu Dibao arrived at the pretty village of Baizha in Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Qinghai province, in 2009. As he climbed a nearby mountain, he noticed a white tent pitched on lush, green grass. The tent, he discovered, was a school.

Engineer grad aids poor areas

Photographer captures Beijing's city gates 

Engineer grad aids poor areas

I am from Xinjiang 

The mobile Pan Hong Primary School had two teachers and 68 students, most of whom were from families of Tibetan herders, and slept on the ground and ate simple meals. The tent served as a classroom and a dormitory but was without electricity or running water. The scene shocked Wu, who later launched a nonprofit called Walking China to help poverty-stricken areas.

"It was a personal project at the beginning because I was deeply touched. It was the poorest school I had ever seen but the students kept smiling," says Wu, now 30.

Since last year, the central government has placed 592 poverty-stricken counties on its priority list. Among them more than 300 counties are in the western region and more than 200 in ethnic-group areas, according to the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

Wu's passion for travel allowed him to document nearly 50 underdeveloped locations and interview more than 300 people over the past five years. Today, he tells the people's stories through a journal and a blog.

Wu studied chemical engineering in Guangdong province but was consumed by wanderlust soon after college. He says he crisscrossed Chengdu, Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou between 2006 and 2008. For money, he freelanced for an outdoor sports magazine that he now edits.

Wu often faces hardships such as being robbed during his visits to economically depressed places, but says the experiences are otherwise uplifting.

"Many people may have never heard of the villages that I have been to. I want to let more people know about what those poor areas look like and what's happening there," he says.

He says that left-behind children and "empty nesters" (parents who don't live with their grown-up children) are major social concerns within rural communities.

"Donating money is not enough to solve their problems. What they need is family care and emotional support," he says.

A family, originally from Henan province who now work in Yunnan province, caught Wu's attention. To help local villagers improve their living conditions, the family organize online donations and collects clothing and food from various parts of China.

While he admires the family's efforts in helping the local people to improve their lives, Wu feels, more help should come in the way of philanthropy. He even drew up an itinerary for netizens to join his efforts. Some people spent several weeks and even months helping him, but others left owing to the pressures of their own jobs.

Some people are willing to donate money to finance Wu's project but he has turned many down.

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