Yanmen Village Primary School is located deep in the mountains of Yanbian County, Panzhihua City, Sichuan Province, surrounded by hundreds of miles of mountains in all directions and extremely inaccessible. The children here are pure and simple, good-natured and strong-willed. In 2016, seewo, an education and technology brand of CVTE, donated educational ICT to the school in Yanmen to help open new horizons for the children. However, during a return visit we discovered the children miss their parents a lot, as they dont see them for most of the year, or not even in years.
Life is not easy, but they always carry a sunny smile.
Its February and spring, but the mornings are still chilly here. Yet at the crack of dawn second-graders Dabao and Xiaobao have already gotten up.
"Grandpa, grandma, were off to school!"
Saying goodbye to their grandparents in their native Yi language, the brothers bounce off on their way to another day at school. The hilly roads make for tough going, but these kids hop around like mountain goats, over tiny dykes around wheat fields and crossing creeks. This daily journey to school looks like two happy little rabbits frolicking about.
Although they are one year apart, the inseparable brothers are both in second grade, and they are never done chatting and never tire of playing this game or that.
"Brother, come play badminton with me!"
"Oh! You always hit wide!"
"Xiaobao, its getting dark. Lets go home and do our homework."
"Brother, wait for me!"
One would expect two brothers of such close ages to quarrel a lot, or even fight, but these are Dabao wholl always protect his younger brother and Xiaobao who clings to his elder brother and asks for his help with math problems.
Perhaps because their parents are not around, the brothers have learned to depend on each other and cherish one another a lot.
Just don't mention Dad.
Looking at the two lovely, lively yet well-behaved Bao brothers, we cant help but ask their grandfather: "Are they always so good when theyre home?"
"They're very good, very sweet," says grandpa with a smile.
Then his expression saddens: "Just dont mention their Dad, or Dabao will cry. He only comes back to the village once every two or three years. "
"Last year, Xiaobao was down with a high fever, I didnt know what was wrong. So we rushed him to the hospital. I cant drive, so I carried him to the county hospital, three hours walking from here. He stayed there for half a month, and his father did not come back to see him... "
Grandpa is talking a lot in his heavy dialect and Mandarin, his simple face showing his disappointment and frustration.
Who would have guessed that so much suffering is hidden behind these tender, bright smiles? The two little Bao brothers missing their father so much and feeling so sad worried us: how many pairs of little Bao brothers are there in these mountains, left behind by their parents working in the city far away?
In recent years, the County Government and Education Bureau of Yanbian have also become concerned about those left-behind children, and theyve taken various measures to improve the living and learning environments for these children, and ICT devices have widened their horizons too. Yet, nothing can replace a parents care.
On the morning of February 22 we set out from Guangzhou to Yanmen. It was a long way traversing many mountain ridges, but after 11 hours we finally arrived at Yanmen Village Primary School. While the children were having their class break, we rushed to set up the equipment. However, we faced a dilemma: should we let several children see their parents simultaneously, or should we let only one child talk to their parents each time? It was not an easy decision to make.
It was not difficult to set up multiple connections at the same time, but it would leave the children with less privacy when talking with their parents. Consecutive single connections would give the children more private time with their parents, but switching connections presents many difficulties. Because the parents are spread all over the country, connection quality is very unstable, and timing the switches right is a real challenge. In order to give the children more time to talk with their parents, we decided to go for consecutive single connections, even though it means well have to switch and adjust connections over thirty times.
To ensure that the children can all have their "surprise", we mobilized our seewo sales partners all across the country, from Dongguan in Guangdong province, Yantai in Shandong province, Putian in Fujian province, Panzhihua in Sichuan province, to get the parents in these separated cities to meet with their children online.
（seewo staffs secretly setting up the equipment）
The school teachers were excited and supportive of our plan, and they discussed with us the best way to prepare this gift for the children.
(seewo staffs and Yanmen Primary School teachers preparing the surprise)
"Daddy, don't cry."
Third-grader Zhao Siming was the first to receive the surprise. As soon as he saw his father on the screen, he bursted into tears of happiness. His father at the other end was particularly happy, and kept smiling and waving at his son. "Daddy, are you alright? You should be careful." Hearing this tender warning, this stern father cried in front of his son for the first time ever. Before long the father and the son were crying together, and the other people in the classroom wiped away a few tears as well.
Another pupil to receive a surprise video link is He Xiaobo. His father works in the mountains and the signal was poor. One seewo partner went to see him deep in the mountains had troubles setting up a stable connection, but finally it worked.
Xiaobos father was firing happy questions: "Son, do you pay attention in class? Are you eating well?" After a few sentences, he saw his son wiping tears that are welling up.
"Daddy, I miss you."
Hearing his son speaking so directly, he was a bit startled at first, then cheerfully replied: "I miss you too. "
As he tried to comfort his crying son, the father could no longer control his own tears. He quickly waved goodbye and shut down the link.
Siming and Xiaobo had red eyes all through the remainder of the class.
"Dont cry my dear, I know you want to be with your father every day right?" teacher asked and the children noded.
"Then promise me you will study hard. Later when youre grown up, you can see your dad every day. Is that alright?" They noded again, through their tears, seizing the chance.
We were taken aback by the vehemence of Ma Xianglans sobbing when she saw her father on the video link: "I miss mommy so much I want to see mommy.."
Xianglan's mother works in Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. We phoned her several times, but as she was busy at work, she missed the connection time. Looking at Xianglan with her red eyes swollen from crying, we had no idea how we could comfort her. Xianglan, dont cry We will try our magic, we well give you a big surprise, okay? " We decided to contact Xianglans mother once again, and fortunately this time we could finally make the connection. Mother and daughter, reunited after so long, even if only virtually, burst into tears as soon as they saw each others beloved face.
During four classes that day, we were able to make connections for nine pairs of pupils and parents. Every connection made us cry. Unfortunately, we were unable to set up a link with the father of the two little Bao brothers.
If you cant be by your childs side, at least you can let them know how much you love them.
Most rural parents would not easily express their love for their children. However, these left-behind children miss their parents. If they cannot even receive simple greetings and care, how can they grow up healthy and happy? If you cant be by your childs side, at least you can show your care in spirit.If your heart is with your child, and you express your love, your child back home in the mountains will not feel left-behind.
CVTE will join forces with even more education and public welfare entities, and seewo will continue donating ICT devices for education in remote areas, so that children can be happier and receive a more modern education. We also hope that more parents and members of the public can join us in caring for the growth of these children that are left behind, so that more of them will "feel love and have hope."
Note: The names in the text are pseudonyms.
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