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July 3, 2011

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Brother helps brother

LIU Yanbo, a senior at Shanghai's Fudan University, went to college thanks to his brother Liu Yanpeng's sacrifice a decade ago and now he plans to go to Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to teach poor kids and inspire them.

Many poor families in rural areas face a painful choice: which child should they send to university - if they can send anyone - and which should stay home? Costs are prohibitive.

More than 10 years ago, Liu's family in Hubei Province faced this dilemma. Yanpeng decided to quit school and do manual labor as a migrant worker to send his younger brother Yanbo to university.

Yanbo, graduating from the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, will teach in the poor western area for a year before starting his postgraduate studies at Fudan.

"Though what I can do is very limited. I want to use my personal experience to encourage those in adverse circumstances," Yanbo said to Shanghai Daily.

"People will have the opportunity to realize their dreams as long as they work hard."

Meanwhile, the elder sibling, now 31, has just taken the college entrance exam and awaits the results.

He returned to high school in Hubei and repeat the entire three years of study, courageously sitting in class with 15-year-olds and burning the midnight oil.

The brothers were born into a family of farmes who raised corn. The father, Liu Yanding, was born hearing impaired; their mother had always been in poor health.

When Yanbo was born, the parents were very worried about how they could make a living and raise two sons. College wasn't even in the picture because of the high costs and relatively few scholarships.

But Yanbo was a gifted student in middle school and dreamed of college. His older brother Yanpeng was a solid student who hoped for higher education, but his younger brother was the star. It was almost impossible for one, to say nothing of two students from one poor family, to attend college.

So Yanpeng didn't even consider taking the entrance exam and when he graduated from high school in 2000 he became a migrant worker, sending home his wages to make his younger brother's college dream come true.

Many sons are competitive, especially in rural areas where family land is passed on to one son. But not in this case.

On the day he left for college, his mother told Yanbo, "If you become successful in the future, don't forget that it was your brother who gave up his dream for you."

Yanbo said he would remember his brother's sacrifice for him and repay his kindness throughout his whole life.

In 2007, Yanbo was accepted by Fudan University. He encouraged his older brother to go back to school.

Yanpeng decided to give it a try. In 2008 he wrote to a hometown high school, asking to be admitted and explaining his situation. The principal was skeptical, given his age and his many years away from textbooks. Yanpeng pressed his case. Moved by his sincerity, the principal agreed to admit him.

When his savings ran out, his younger brother came to his assistance, working as a private tutor and sending money home. Now both men face a new chapter in their lives.


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