Caring Liuzhou woman shines as role model for all ages

By Li Yang in Liuzhou, Guangxi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-03-04 11:09:54

Caring Liuzhou woman shines as role model for all ages

Zhang Xiuping, 80, takes care of her daughter, who suffers from mental illness, at her old apartment building in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Lan Lin / China Daily

While they say God helps those who help themselves, Zhang Xiu-ping's philosophy is simpler.

"I can only depend on myself," she says.

Widowed in 2000, Zhang, 80, has taken care of her mentally disabled daughter Lu Cuilan, 54, all her life, and her paralyzed neighbor Wei Guihua, 82, since 1996. She was recently named a model citizen of the city Liuzhou, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Caring Liuzhou woman shines as role model for all ages

Fishing in the desert 

Caring Liuzhou woman shines as role model for all ages

The enlightenment of Helen Hai 

A beautiful, self-educated woman from a village in Liuzhou, Zhang married her railway-worker husband in the late 1950s.

"It was an enviable marriage then," recalls Zhang, wearing a bitter smile. Zhang was a temporary worker in local railway factory, making one-tenth of a normal worker's wage.

The medicine shortage in the great famine of the early 1960s left her cerebritis-inflicted infant daughter with permanent brain damage. The "cultural revolution" (1966-76) deprived her son of an education, and he now leads a hand-to-mouth life as a manual worker.

The hardships of life have wrinkled Zhang's face, bent her waist and deformed her hands, but have not diminished her determined eyes.

Her husband became ill after losing his job in the late 1980s, and died of disease in 2000 at age 60, exhausting all the family savings.

Zhang lived on her pension, 300 yuan ($49) per month, in a dilapidated community for retired and laid-off railway workers in Liuzhou, amid dozens of four-story red-brick apartment buildings built in the 1950s. Two families shared the same kitchen and toilet. Damp, moss-covered and dark, the shabby buildings pose a sharp contrast against the newly built skyscrapers nearby.

Chen Weiming, the neighborhood committee head, says most of the residents are old and poor.

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