Fang Hongjin, an 87-year-old communist retired from Anshan Iron&Steel Group Corporation, said: “I set a goal for myself. If I can live up to 90 years old, I will try my best to subsidize 90 students coming from poor families.” From 1997, for a total of 20 years, he never gave up the 68 poor students he was helping.
Fang graduated from Nankai University in August 1952. After his retirement, he always thought about how to contribute to the social development. In 1997, Fang saw an advertisement and realized that many children from poor families were facing difficulties in continuing their studies.
“I was born in a poor family in a village in Shandong. My family helped me to get my junior high diploma with much effort. Then, with my relatives’ support, I finished senior high. My university career depended on the Renmin Student Subsidy and my classmates’ help. So I cannot turn a blind eye to students who can’t afford tuition fees.” Thus, in 1997, Fang started to assist the poor students.
The first student he assisted was Jiang Jinyu. He was a first-grade boy studying at Tangfang Village’s Primary School (Anshan, Liaoning Province). The first donation was 400 RMB. Among the 68 students who received Fang’s help, the one he cared about most was a disabled girl, Zhang Lulu, a second-grade student from Tiedong District’s Dong Chang Dian Primary School. Zhang was born with cerebral palsy and could not walk. When she was a kid, her parents divorced and she moved to her grandparents’ house. They were a poor family: they used to receive subsistence allowances from the government. In 1999, local Women’s League helped Fang to act as Zhang’s representative father. During every festival, he would visit her, bringing dumplings, yuanxiao, zongzi, moon cakes, and fruits. During every Children’s Day, and when it was Lulu’s birthday, he would take her to the park, presenting her with books, stationery, and birthday cakes. In 2002, considering Lulu’s difficulties to move, Fang and his wife collected 846 RMB, almost the total of his monthly pension, to buy a folding wheelchair for Lulu.
On March 3rd, 2004, Fang helped a first-grade girl from Haicheng, Di Chengcheng. “Grandpa Fang, you always visited me even though you are old. I will study hard and go to university to pay your kindness back.” Seeing the progresses made by the children, Fang felt that the efforts were worthwhile, no matter how hard it was.
In 2008, Fang’s wife suffered from rectal cancer and had a resection operation. His wife’s disease made him feel really sad. Treatments, nursing, and the special food she had to eat increased the financial burden of the family. Fang took care of his wife carefully and encouraged her. Meanwhile, he saved money and continued aiding his children.
In fact, after his retirement, Fang did not own much money. In 1994, when he started to help the poor children, his family pension was less than 1,000 yuan per month, and their three children needed money too. Even today, his wife wears an old jacket made in the 80s, and the couple lives in an old room of 70 m2. “A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers” Fang said. “I set a goal for myself. Helping others makes me feel happy.”