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Godmother offers a guiding hand

Updated: 2013-05-09 13:26
(China Daily)

Deng Yangqiu has turned horror into humor.

The 22-year-old, who had to tear off what remained of his left leg to escape the rubble of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, sometimes asks spectators to close their eyes. When they open them again he is seated with his leg bent at the knee and his foot in the air, 180 degrees from where it should be if it were not a prosthetic.

He clasps his palms together and says: "Yoga!" He laughs and then does a handstand.

Godmother offers a guiding hand

Deng, an ethnic Qiang from Beichuan county, has come a long way since the disaster, largely thanks to help from Wang Zhihang.

The 57-year-old has taken care of more than 140 children who lost legs in the 2008 temblor. About 70 of them, including Deng, have come to call her ganma - a traditional Chinese take on godmother.

Wang believes their relationship is "stronger than blood".

Her large "family" began after she met Zhang Feng, who also lost a leg in the quake. Wang had started volunteering at a hospital a month after the disaster to help children whose legs had been amputated. The youngest was 4 years old, the oldest in their late teens.

Initially, Zhang called Wang "auntie" but later asked Wang to become her ganma.

"Zhang is very brave and has a strong heart," Wang says. "She chose to study psychology because so many people helped her after the quake. She wants to help others."

The 21-year-old now dreams of opening her own clinic. "Ganma sets an example for us," she says. "She knows a lot about the world. We talk about everything from freedom to Freud."

The children Wang has helped - all ethnic Qiang from rural regions around Beichuan - have gone on to higher education after high school, she says.

"They're not like farmers," Wang says. "They're like urbanites. You can't call them disabled. They're more normal than normal people."

Not everyone understands this, however. She recalls a visit by 11 girls with prosthetic legs to her home during a recent vacation. They all took off their limbs and stacked them against the wall before bedtime.

"Friends asked if I was scared," she says. "I told them love conquers all fear."

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