$68,000 raised to help 'Snowflake Boy' and other poor families in Yunnan

$68,000 raised to help 'Snowflake Boy' and other poor families in Yunnan
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

Photos of a boy who arrived at school with a head full of icicles after walking more than 4 kilometers through the freezing snow have drawn widespread attention to children from poor rural families.

Wang Manfu, 10, was photographed by his teacher on Monday morning, and the picture quickly went viral after being shared on social media.

Wearing only a thin jacket, the student had braved -9 C weather to travel over an hour from his village home to reach Zhuanshanbao Primary School in Zhaotong, Yunnan province.

"He arrived with his hair and eyebrows completely frozen, sparking laughter among his 16 classmates," said Fu Heng, the school's principal, who uploaded Wang's photo along with those of students with frostbite on their hands.

Fu added that his classrooms do not have heating due to a lack of funding.

Statistics from the Yunnan government show that eight of the province's 88 towns living under the poverty line are in Zhaotong. As of 2017, the city had more than 1.1 million people classified as impoverished, including 138,700 primary students.

After hearing Wang's story, the Yunnan China Youth Development Foundation launched a public donation campaign for children from poor families on Tuesday. It has promised to give each needy child 500 yuan to help them stay warm in winter.

The organisation's Zhaotong office also began soliciting donations on the same day to help poor families in the city.

As of 1 pm on Wednesday, the provincial foundation had collected about 300,000 yuan (S$61,000) in public donations, and its Zhaotong office had also collected more than 26,200 yuan by 5.10 pm, according to their websites.

The Zhaotong city government said on Tuesday that the education department has been urged to ensure heating is provided to all schools in mountainous areas as soon as possible.

Local medical centres should also send doctors to treat students with frostbite, the authority said.

Wang, who has been nicknamed "Snowflake Boy" by netizens, became an overnight sensation online. By Wednesday morning, his picture had been "liked" more than 260,000 times on Sina Weibo and shared more than 40,000 times.

Netizens have written poems and drawn illustrations based on his picture as a form of encouragement.

"Many children in cities don't have the strong determination of this boy. I hope all his efforts pay off," a netizen called "Lengxuezhang" wrote on Sina Weibo.

The name Manfu translates as "full of happiness", but Wang does not come from a well-off family. He lives in a mud hut with his grandmother and older sister, and rarely sees his parents because they are migrant workers in other cities.

"I love school. We can have bread and milk for lunch, and we learn lots of things in class," Wang said.

His village now has electricity and tap water, "and my family is getting help to build a new house close to the school", he said. "I think our life will get better."

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