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Escaping poverty with hard work and a helping hand

By WU YAN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-30 08:22

Escaping poverty with hard work and a helping hand

Cheng Shuangjia holds up the awards and scholarships he won during his college years, May 15, 2017. [Photo by Wu Yan/chinadaily.com.cn]

Editor's note: In the run-up to the 19th Communist Party of China National Congress, China Daily sent six reporters to live for a month in poor villages to see how China's poverty eradication plan is improving people's lives.

Although suffering from frequent broken bones and fractures while growing up, as a result of brittle bone disease, an iron-willed sister and brother in Hubei province are now able to support themselves as teachers after studying hard and graduating from university.

Cheng Shuangjia and his elder sister Cheng Xiangxi grew up in a village in the mountains of Macheng county of Huanggang, Hubei. Their parents gave them home schooling at first because the sick children had to lie on the bed most of the time.

"Our parents kept taking us to doctors to try to find out what disease we were born with," said 27-year-old Cheng Shuangjia.

"We were eventually diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta in 1998."

Although there is no cure for the genetic condition, there are treatments and medicines that can help sufferers. However, the family lacked the money for any treatment and the two children were sent directly to a grade-three class at a primary school.

"Since then, my sister and I knew that studying was the only way to improve our situation," said Cheng Shuangjia.

"We often went to school with the pain of fractures," he said.

If they suffered minor fractures, their father would set their broken bones on a board or in a cast, and they went to school without a day of rest.

"We knew that if we went to hospital, we would have to spend a lot of money on treatment and waste half a year, which would mean missing classes for a whole semester," he said.

"They showed great perseverance," said their father Cheng Yongbai.

The children's medical fees increased the economic pressures on the family, which struggled to survive on the crops and peanuts the mother grew on 0.66 acres of land and the father's humble wages.

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