Business / Economy

Journalist Deng's initiative to help left-behind kids

By Meng Fanbin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-24 10:48

A new project has been launched to provide free, comfortable overnight school accommodation for left-behind children living in remote areas.

"Flying Box" is the brainchild of well-known investigative journalist Deng Fei, and the charity China Youth Development Foundation.

Deng said that some children in rural areas have to travel for hours daily, just to get to school. As a result, many have started skipping classes because it is too tiring.

So he and the foundation are planning to build dormitories that can be easily assembled near schools, so children do not have to travel long distances.

"Sometimes rough mountain roads are unsuitable for school buses," Deng said, who works for Phoenix Weekly, a magazine owned by the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings Ltd.

The 37-year-old has already orchestrated a number of online campaigns through social media, targeted at helping children including a high-profile campaign against child abduction.

He first started tackling the plight of rural children in April 2011.

During a reporting trip to Guizhou province, he said he was shocked to discover that many schools had no canteens.

That prompted his Free Lunch initiative, launched in April 2011, which offers free hot food at schools.

He began raising money online from his 1.4 million followers on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, and on, the popular online shopping site, asking for donations of no more than 3 yuan (less than 50 cents) to pay for one lunch for one poverty-stricken rural child.

By the end of July this year, Free Lunch had raised 149 million yuan, and meals had been provided to 454 schools.

The investigative reporter-who has written on many sensitive topics such as child trafficking, organ harvesting from death-penalty victims and shoddy school construction-also reports extensively on rural economic development issues, such as water safety and the protection of ancient buildings.

"But the fundamental objectives of many of these efforts are to look at ways of solving the problem of left-behind children," he said.

Ultimately, he said, the issue will only be solved when the children's parents can earn more money in the countryside, so they can stay at home with their kids.

"The media can do more than just write articles. They can take action," Deng said.

"As a journalist and as a citizen, I have a responsibility to try and solve these problems."

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