China: Qionghua Fan

Don't cry, kids. Your parents are gone, and I’ll be your mother now!

— Qionghua Fan

Fan Qionghua (40) is the first female party secretary in Fangguang Village, Xujia Town, Peng'an County, Sichuan Province. The village is a poverty-stricken place where fights within families frequently occur. While arbitrating a family dispute, Fan persuaded a young couple to find jobs in the city. Since then she has shouldered the responsibility of taking care of the children of such families and is known as "Mother Fan."

In Fangguang Village, which has a population of more than 600, the arable land per capita is only a little over 50,000 square meters. The villagers lived in very poor conditions. In order to alleviate poverty, Fan Qionghua encouraged young adults to leave the village and seek work elsewhere. Parents then entrusted their children to Fan and left. Since 1998 she has taken care of 36 children aged from 10 to 18. It has not been easy. Once a girl caught a fever and Fan carried her eight kilometers to the hospital in heavy rain. She was so tired when she arrived at the hospital that she fainted. One set of parents have not been heard of since they left. Fan has spent more than 6000 yuan on their two children. She keeps the children in school, feeds them and keeps them warm, and never asks for any material reward for her work. Her love for the children she has raised has been compensated in a spiritual way – 17 of her children were admitted to junior middle school, 12 to senior high school, and five to colleges. Fan Qionghua, known as "Mother Fan" in the village, says, "The biggest compensation for me is to see the children entering colleges and achieving great things." Mother Fan has successfully improved the living conditions in this poor village.

Fangguang Village, Xujia Town, Peng'an County, Sichuan Province