A businessman in Beijing has given fresh hope to a group of young women from Sichuan following the tragedy of the May 12 earthquake.
Singaporean Danny Chang, who has lived in China since 1997, opened a new bar "1/5" in east Beijing's embassy area early last month.
"I was wondering what a businessman like me could do to help, apart from just donating money," the 38-year-old said at his bar Monday.
Then a friend from Chengdu came up with the solution, he said: hire people from Sichuan.
"I thought it was really a good idea, so I flew to Chengdu immediately," he said.
His friend took him to a job fair at Sichuan College of Education, where lots of students were looking for jobs.
After chatting with dozens of candidates, Chang chose 12 young women - mostly third-year students majoring in tourist management - and offered them one-year internships.
But the recruitment process was not all plain sailing for the generous bar owner.
With his left arm tattooed with a totem pole and his right draped with a dozen silver bracelets, many students mistook the 1.9-m-tall Chang for a gangster.
Henna, a 22-year-old from Deyang, Sichuan, who managed to land one of the jobs, said Monday: "At first, we all thought he was a mafia boss. Some of my friends even told me not to go, because they thought it might be a trap," she said.
But Chang said he wanted to be honest and open with the candidates, which was why he did not cover up his arms.
As long as the applicants met the basic criteria, the jobs were offered on a first come, first served basis, he said.
"I was there to help people, not to be picky. If you have passion, you're qualified," he said.
The 1/5 interns work eight hours a day, six days a week. They can earn up to 1,000 yuan a month and also get free accommodation and meals.
But the internships are not about money or benefits, Chang said. They offer the girls the chance to learn about the industry and get some really useful work experience.
"They'll learn about cash flow, hosting, bar tending and service, which are all really useful skills," Chang said.
To help them acclimatize, Chang said he has also taken his newest workers out on shopping and sightseeing trips, and even to a club one Sunday night, his only day off.
He said he was impressed at how quickly some of them had picked up English, something he attributed to the nights they spent chatting to the bar's foreign customers.
"They spoke little English when they arrived, but they are getting much better.
"In six months' time, they'll be confident enough to chat with people from anywhere in the world," he said.