Woman offers love to 76 children

Woman offers love to 76 children
Li Lijuan's 27th adopted child, 7-year-old Da Qiao, wipes tears from Li at their home in Shangquan village, Hebei province, in July.
PHOTO: China Daily/ANN

Li Lijuan, 45, has spent almost 20 years giving children a good start in life. Since 1996, she has adopted 76 children.

Li, who was born in Wu'an, a county-level city in Handan, Hebei province, moved to a remote village and built a home to raise her adopted children.

The first adoptee came by chance when she witnessed a 3-year-old girl in shabby clothes being ordered by a man to learn to bark like a dog.

"The man forced the girl to do terrible things, and it made me angry," Li said.

She doubted the girl had been kidnapped but suspected the man had always mistreated the girl. A follow-up investigation by police proved Li was right.

The girl, whose father died and had been abandoned by her mother, was bought and taught to beg on the streets.

Li applied to adopt the girl and was successful. Her action was prompted by an emotional episode in her own life.

"My own son once was sold by his father," Li said.

Her ex-husband sold their 4-year-old son for money to buy drugs. She managed to find the buyer and paid a much higher price to get her son back.

"Leaving my son to his father was terribly wrenching for me when we got divorced, letting alone learning my son was sold to strangers," Li said.

Hearing about children being kidnapped and suffering always made her heart ache.

"Love is a good medicine," Li said. "It cured my spiritual wounds, and I'd like to give a mother's love to them."

Over the years, she adopted more children.

"Some of them were left at my door right after they were born," Li said.

The newborns sent to her all had physical and mental disabilities.

"Those parents disliked children with disabilities, so they gave them up to me," she said.

Of the children adopted by her, 65 had physical or mental disabilities, including cleft palate, cerebral palsy and blindness. In most cases, their conditions have improved.

"I would try my best and spend all that I have to treat them and raise them," Li said. "If a degree of partiality exists, I think I have shown favour to disabled children rather than normal ones."

Li was a rich woman in the 1990s, according to her friend Liu Suguo.

"She was born into a rich family and earned 4 million yuan (S$889,036) from business when she was in her 20s," Liu said.

The money that was used to raise the children and provide hospital treatment for them was not a problem at the time. But a planned road stopped production at a mine that Li was managing, forcing her to relocate with the dozens of adopted children.

She moved to the countryside and started to keep poultry and livestock, as well as cultivating more than 1.3 hectares of land.

She also started employing women from the village to help care for the children. She now employs 20 women.

As the number of adopted children grew, Li became famous in neighbouring cities. Her fame brought many donations, including cash, clothes and baby formula. Doctors from cities came to examine her children free of charge.

However, the celebrity also brought her trouble from micro-bloggers who were critical of her actions. One named "XingfudexiaozhuHD" said her actions were simply to gain fame.

A local taxi driver surnamed Jia said, "I don't want to judge, but there is no disputing the fact that many poor children have benefited from being adopted by Li and they have grown up healthy."

Li doesn't let the criticisms of a few affect her.

"I will continue to do this because we bring each other happiness," Li said.

Five of her adopted daughters have married. One of her adopted sons is a public servant in Shaanxi province. Three others are studying in college, while two more took the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, in June.

Contact the writers through zhangyu1@chinadaily.com.cn

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