Over the past two years, 28-year-old Luo Yincheng has been fighting against poverty together with Ninglang Yi Autonomous County, known colloquially as Xiaoliangshan, on Mt. Xiaoliangshan on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.
The year 2019 when he obtained his Master’s degree from Tianjin University marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign to secure a decisive victory in poverty alleviation. Called on by his alma mater and out of a sense of social responsibility, Luo joined the great cause and went to work at the state-level poor county, determined to “do something practical for the society and the nation”.
Luo Yincheng (the second from the right) with the local children
By the November of 2020,Xiaoliangshan hadbecome one of the last nine counties in Yunnan province to part with impoverishment that has affiliated the area for thousands of years. Luo, being one of the numerous poverty fighters, wrote 692 diaries in the past two years, recording his efforts to help eradicate poverty, the tremendous changes he witnessed and experienced in Xiaoliangshan, and how the local people enjoyed an improved life, the ultimate goal of the whole poverty-eradication cause.
The world is my oyster. Fighting!
“The world is my oyster. Fighting!”, wrote Luo at the very beginning of his first piece of diary when he came to Xiaoliangshan in early 2019. In the same year, Premier Li Keqiang stressed to “fight against poverty with targeted measures”, and Luo regarded himself as a warrior in this fight.
With a great passion, he became a member of the work team in Huangbanping Village, Daxing Town, Ninglang Yi Autonomous County on Hengduan Mountains in northwestern Yunnan Province. However, the reality poured cold water on this young man who grew up in the city every day.
There were 739 families (3037 people) in the village, of which 397 families (1786 people) were registered poor households, with a poverty headcount ratio topping 50 percent. This secluded village in precipitous mountains is prone to natural disasters like mountain torrents, earthquakes and debris flows. Led by village workers, Luo, an enthusiastic new comer, after climbing steep dangerous mountains on his hands and feet, visited the villagers, only to find that they could not understand Mandarin.
The locals were self-sufficient for a long time and lived kind of a primitive life. They rarely communicated with the outside world because of low level of education, which prevented Luo from turning his ideas like livestreaming commerce and poverty alleviation through business development into reality.
“Where is the way out for the villagers to shake off poverty?” Luo racked his brains.
His diary tells different “ways” he had taken. Luo Yincheng’s team were responsible for visiting each poor household, recording their changes, helping renovate dilapidated houses and boosting local business and education. The work was challenging and time-consuming. He wrote in his diary, “We resumed household survey after dinner tonight. It was getting dark, and there was neither moon nor lamps. We had nothing but our phone flashlight to light the way.”
His work was inevitably accompanied with difficulties and hardships. His diary revealed an especially miserable day.
One day in the morning, on his way to visiting a family, Luo fell over by accident and one of his shoes was pierced through by four hard thorns, one of which even hurt his toe. He continued his journey and only had a short break in the mountains with his team at noon. “I made a roast potato for lunch since I was not used to the local food,” Luo wrote in his diary. After returning to his residence at night, he began to log information, but then received a heartbreaking news from his home 600 km awaythathis grandfather had passed away.
“Hearing the news, I felt so heartbroken that the injury caused by thorns was nothing to me at that moment”, recalled Luo. He once thought to ask for leave to attend the funeral, “But I can’t go. We are on such a tight schedule!”. He could not sleep that night and wrote in his diary with tears, “I am having mixed feelings—remorse, homesickness, anxiety and sadness.” Eventually he stayed on his post, holding to the faith that when you choose your way, don’t look back.
I want to show children the world beyond the mountains.
There are many photos of local children in Luo’s diary book. Luo was shocked when the playing children quickly retreated to the roadsides and saluted a car passing by the village. For them, car is a rarity, because many of them have never walked out of the mountain in sight.
Luo is answering students' questions after the micro class.
Luo became increasingly aware that education was the fundamental way to help the village get rid of poverty. He decided to do something to help improve local education and eventually came up with the idea of setting up a “micro classroom”.
The micro classroom, according to Luo, is kind of extracurricular class that Luo and other young pioneers organized to teach students in a local primary school about popular science knowledges in various fields. Starting in mid-May, they taught such lessons once a week to 104 primary students in the hope that they would help children discover what they were interested in and were willing to fight for.
“We hope to open a window for children to see the world beyond the mountains so as to broaden their horizons and let them have an ambitious aspiration.”
Students love the class very much and after class they kept asking questions like “How do people show a film?”, “How a rocket is launched?” and “Is there any resident on the Mars?”
Luo also received letters from some children, one of which read, “How long is the Great Wall? I will study hard and go to university, so I will have the chance to visit it in person. I believe I will make it as long as I stick to my dream.” Luo recorded these innocent and lovely children in his diary, and wrote, “I hope to help the children set their goals and cultivate them with knowledge. In this way, they can walk out of the mountains, embrace the world outside, and live a better life.”
In June, 2020, Luo launched a charitable activity named “I have a little dream” on a WeChat official account where he posted the wishes of 96 pupils. Surprisingly, many people showed concerns about them and sent them such gifts as color pens, basketballs, footballs, desks and ice skates. Later, Luo set up “Book Corners” for two local schools with books collected through an online activity.
The children were fond of this clean quiet elder brother from the bottom of their heart. For example, a nine-grade student in his adolescence rebellious period, always spilt out his troubles to Luo after he quarreled with his parents and ran away from home.
Luo also has to combat with local people’s fallacy that “education is useless”.
“Some parents did not care about education at all. They even called me a liar for ‘cheating’ their children into study”. Luo sometimes felt wronged when some villagers required compensation for sending their kids to school as they thought that it was time-consuming and not profitable. Some villagers even nailed up their windows with boards to keep their children from school. In such cases, Luo and his colleagues tried every means to convince those parents of the necessity to let their students study. They visited the households again and again and communicated with them via phone every day. He kept encouraging himself in his diary during that time, “I will not back up from my efforts to get more children back to school!”
Luo’s diary revealed a story about how he accompanied a local student named Xiao Liwei who was enrolled by Dalian University to register at the school this September. Luo received a phone call from Dalian University one day and learnt that Xiao Liwei, a newly enrolled student from Duhe Village, Daxing Town, didn’t show up at the university for registration within the given time. Luo set out to figure out what was going on. He eventually found that Luo lived a hard life with only his elder brother to depend on since their father had died and their mother left the two kids behind and was nowhere to be found. Luo who was fully aware that he couldn’t afford the tuition fees for the university didn’t tell his brother about his admission by Dalian University.
“It was not easy for a local student to be admitted into university. I cannot let him drop out because of economic reasons.” Luo helped Xiao Liwei get a student loan of 8,000 yuan and applied for the rural minimum living subsistence for the two brothers. After Luo told the university about Xiao Liwei’s family condition, Dalian University provided Xiao a 2500-yuan student grant and some life necessities. Then Luo managed to secure 7,000 yuan living expenses for Liwei through charity funds.
Luo Yincheng’s efforts paid off when Xiao Liwei took a photo, smiling, in front of the gate of Dalian University where he was going to receive higher education for four years.
In my prime of youth, I choose to dance with the times.
Luo still remembered the first time when he visited Yang Liujin and his families, a poor household in Huangbanping Village.
The couple are disabled and have a son and a daughter. This family of four used to crowd in a dilapidated leaky house of wood and tiles. “Their poor living conditions were beyond imagination.” Luo and his colleagues helped them apply for disability benefits, build a new house and make a living through planting commercial crops like corns and peppercorns.
To this day, the Yang family always extends their gratitude and praise to Luo whenever they meet him. Luo was touched and wrote, “With both the government’s support and their unremitting efforts, the impoverished will definitely live a prosperous life one day.”
The villages Luo Yincheng work in are mostly isolated from outside world by mountains and gorges. It took Luo and his colleagues one hour to drive and longer to climb the mountains to reach the farthest family which lived solely on some easy-to-grow plants. To improve the locals’ lives, the government relocated the impoverished residents.
Liu Zhiqiang and his families used to live in the mountains where his house was often cracked, or toppled down by landslides in the rainy season. Luo and his team visited Liu and helped his family and another two families nearby move to a neighborhood in the city center provided specifically for impoverished residents.
For Liu Zhiqiang, he now found a new way of living by singing at the Old Town of Lijiang, a renowned local sightseeing spot and amazingly enjoyed great popularity among the tourists. In 2020, Liu started to sing on a livestreaming platform given the adverse effects of COVID-19 on tourism. He also took some part-time job at the scenic spot to complement the household. In Luo’s opinion, Liu was “fashionable” and hard-working. “People like Liu were very grateful to the government for lifting their family out of poverty, and I could tell their confidence to fight for a better future,” Luo said.
The above only reveals several of the stories in Luo’s diary. This young man said that those days in Ninglang gave him an opportunity to “have a deeper understanding on the life of common people”. “I had quite a few ideas upon graduation, but I now realize that everything calls for a down-to-earth spirit and courage to face challenges”.
Now, Luo has set a bigger goal for himself. “The Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee changed ‘building a moderately prosperous society in all respects’ into ‘building a modern socialist country in all respects’”. For him, nothing could be happier than devoting his youth to the brighter future of his motherland.
By Li Yan
Editor: Eva Yin