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Fan Jingwei: Caring about education of rural children in China

Arranging donated books in the reading room of a primary school in Zhouqu area, Gansu province Photos: courtesy of Fan Jingwei

Reading books is one of the most important ways for people to obtain knowledge, but children in rural areas of China have little to no access to books. Fan Jingwei (范晶薇), a woman nearly 60 years old, is operating an NGO based in Beijing named Heyue Reading Promotion Service Center (合悦阅读促进服务中心), aiming to donate books to children aged between 6–13 in rural areas. Her team has set up a website (一公斤捐书网), which makes the donation process faster and more accurate.

Fan is more often addressed by people as Sister Haha (哈哈姐). Haha means “laughing aloud” in Chinese. “I am happy and I want others to be happy, too. I really want to have some influence on others with my positive power,” she said. Fan has gone through the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). During that period, she lost the opportunity to study in school, but she kept the habit of reading books by herself.

Collecting donations for children

Fan's enthusiasm for traveling made her spot the problem of rural education

Fan worked as an executive in an investment company before retiring in 2011. “None of my previous jobs had anything to do with public service,” she said, “But as an executive, I had more time to travel around the country. When I traveled to beautiful places like Yunnan, I found people still living in poverty there. We often asked children for directions because children understood what we talked about better than adults,” she said.

Gradually, Fan started to put various kinds of stuff, such as pencils, books and sweets, in her backpack when she traveled to rural areas so that she could hand them out to children when she met any. She even volunteered to work for a website which was committed to collecting donations for children in rural areas. “We called for travelers to give stuff to children in rural areas when they traveled there. We must do it and set an example for others,” Fan smiled.

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