The story appears on

Page A4

February 27, 2013

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro

Needy, innovative migrants make old bus into solar-powered home

THE unemployed mother was shocked to see a group of uninvited visitors waiting for her in a narrow, desolate lane in suburban Songjiang District, where her migrant worker family secretly and illegally parked an old bus they have refitted to use as a home.

The mother, surnamed Zhang, who is in her 30s, quickly pushed her nine-year-old daughter into the converted bus, which looks dirty and old but is a fully furnished recreational vehicle equipped with TV, computer, a kitchen and even a bathroom - all powered by solar energy.

"I have only one thing to tell you," Zhang shouted to the reporters while blocking their way into the RV.

"We don't need your help or your sympathy. We cannot afford to buy or rent an apartment in the city so we built one. It's not breaking the law or disturbing the others," Zhang said.

"So if you cannot give us another shelter, just leave us alone. Leave the bus and our life alone, here, isolated but peaceful," said Zhang.

For the past two and a half years, Zhang, a breast cancer patient with no job, has lived in the RV with her husband, their young daughter and her mother, who has serious heart disease.

She said life in the bus is never "comfortable" or "happy," but at least the family managed to have a home in Shanghai, a city which she said is much better than their hometown in Hebei Province.

But their lives were interrupted when a local resident saw their refitted home, snapped a picture and posted it on Weibo, saying that she was "shocked by the creativity of the migrant couple while feeling pity for their lives."

Although the post praised the couple's skills, it attracted visitors, including local officials who asked them to leave.

Zhang calmed down after she was told that the visitors were reporters who would not tow their vehicle.

She said she came to Shanghai with her husband, Sun Jie, 39, a retired solider, several years ago from Hebei Province to start a better life and get treatment for her illness.

"But the cost of living here is too high. My husband earns about 2,000 yuan (US$321) as a security guard, and we can barely make a life here after paying more than half of that money renting an apartment," said Zhang.

Not to mention curing her breast cancer and the heart disease of her mother, she added.

Sun managed to purchase a discarded bus in the city and used his skills from the military to refit it. The couple was then helped by a local company that offered them a set of solar energy system so they can have power, Zhang said. The total costs added up to over several thousand yuan, she said.

"In the summer days, the bus is extremely hot and stuffy. Most of time, we have to go to public toilets nearby or the bus would become smelly," she said.

Even so, they still preferred living in Shanghai than going back to their hometown.

"How can we go back? The city is much better than our hometown," she said.

The couples were seen growing vegetables near the bus to cut living expenses.

Zhang said the family has been asked several times by local government officials to move after nearby residents reported them.

"Some residents were not happy to see us living in free shelter and eating free vegetables. They complained to the neighborhood committee saying that we disturbed their life," said Zhang.

An official with the local neighborhood committee said that they have violated laws such as illegally occupying the land and building illegal structures. The official said they have tried to help the couple, offering the wife a job as a cleaner in a nearby community and even helping them to find a cheap apartment, but the family still has refused to leave their bus or to move.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend