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A miracle brings harmony to a hardworking student

ZHANG Meng is a sweet-natured, happy student from Shaanxi Province. She is devoted to her family, helps around the house and is always in the top 10 in her class at school.

But for the past five years the 17-year-old has been deaf. She first lost the hearing in one ear when she was five, and lost hearing in the other ear when she was 12. Zhang was born to a poor family which has spent all its savings trying to help her.

It looked for a long time as though life was going to be a real struggle for this cheerful, bright girl.

But suddenly there has been a miracle.

Zhang was in hospital last month at the Shanghai Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Shanghai. Nothing was wrong and something was going right for once.

She was in the hospital for a cochlear implant.

Last Tuesday, the electronic part of the cochlear implant was successfully switched on in the hospital. With rehabilitation and training Zhang will recover soon and be able to hear almost normally after treatment for a few months.

The miracle that will bring sound back into her life was brought about by the Zhejiang Xinhua Compassion Education Foundation. A businessman from Taiwan, surnamed Jiang, gave 200,000 yuan (US$29,273) to the foundation to help pay for Zhang's surgery.

Zhang is the first student who has had a cochlear implant provided by the foundation.

"Zhang is an excellent student. She is in a class with normal students and keeps in the top 10 in her school," says Zhang Junda, the foundation chairman. "We believe that there will always be hope if you never give up."

The foundation was established in July 2007 by Wang Chien-Shien, one of the leading figures in Taiwan. Wang had contributed to charities on the Chinese mainland for over 10 years before he went back to Taiwan to be president of the Control Yuan last July.

Zhang, the present foundation chairman, is a successful 62-year-old businessman from Taiwan and was appointed last June.

So far almost all the donations come from Taiwan or overseas such as North America. "We hope more and more people on the Chinese mainland will join us to help more children in China," says Zhang.

The foundation has a senior high school in Pinghu, Zhejiang Province. From 2004 to 2006, the school admitted 160 poor children who had graduated from middle school but couldn't continue their schooling because of poverty.

'Pearl Plan'

The students are called "pearls." "All of them are treasures to us. All they need is just a chance to go to school," says Zhang. This project that helps children finish their high school studies and go on to university is called "The Pearl Plan."

From 2007, "The Pearl Plan" was extended to the whole China. Thirty-two "Pearl" classes opened in 19 provinces in 2007, and 55 classes in 22 provinces in 2008.

The "Pearl" classes have been set up in local high schools, and every class has about 50 students. All the expenses for the "Pearl" students (about 2,500 yuan per person per year) are paid by the foundation.

So far around 5,000 students are being helped and the first graduates will enter universities next year after they finish their three-year high school education.

The foundation has an assessment system so that it looks after students who are poor but hardworking.

"We are very responsible for our donors' money. We use every penny on people who really need help," says Zhang. He has pledged that no donations will be used for administration fees for the foundation.

Meanwhile, the foundation has established more than 300 primary schools in poor areas in Chinese mainland. Another 40 are under construction including 30 in the earthquake-devastated areas in Sichuan Province.

"Actually we had already built 15 schools in Sichuan before the earthquake and none of them collapsed," Zhang?says proudly.

The foundation is also helping to build libraries in the schools in poor areas. "As distinct from the school buildings, books for students and teachers will bring them real treasures," Zhang says.

Another foundation project, the "One Child One Egg" project, is helping children suffering from malnutrition in untapped areas. More than 12,000 poor students are given one boiled egg every day.

Zhejiang Xinhua Compassion Education Foundation

Tel: (0573) 8503-0285, (0573) 8501-7032


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