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Helping others a joy, says Uncle Charity

RAISING more than 5 million yuan (US$729,500) in 23 years for disadvantaged people led an 86-year-old local man to become known as "Uncle Charity."

After an invitation to a Christmas bazaar, Zhang Jingdi became a conduit between charities and foreign donors.

Over the years he has helped support orphans, the physically and mentally disabled, lonely senior citizens and poor students.

Zhang is still energetic but has had many "time bombs," the term he uses for his health problems. Glaucoma and cataracts have caused his poor eyesight. And he struggles to walk. But Zhang is still devoted to helping others.

He just visited some mentally disabled people with his foreign donors three weeks ago. Now he's planning to buy TVs for a rest home.

The desks and tables in his sitting room are stacked with papers: background information on donors and recipients, letters from donors and donation receipts.

Confucius said in the Book of Rites that elderly people with no spouses, children or grandchildren to look after them, orphans, the handicapped and the ill - should all be provided for.

"I have helped almost all those who have been mentioned in the Book of Rites," Zhang said.

In 1986, organizers of the Shanghai Expatriate Association's Christmas bazaar didn't know what to do with the funds they had raised, so Zhang suggested they use the money to help Chinese orphans.

An interpreter, Zhang took 30 women of the association to the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institution to visit the orphans. Zhang said it was a touching scene, with the foreign women kissing and hugging the orphans.

After the visit, five color TVs and four washing machines were sent to the institution.

Zhang's later charity causes were based on friendships with many of his foreign students.

He started to teach foreigners Chinese after he retired from teaching middle-school French and English in 1985.

For donors who made big contributions, Zhang made them certificates expressing deep gratitude and blessings in English or French.

In 1996 Zhang started to raise money for poor students and since then has helped subsidize 111 students.

Before giving subsidies, he checks their family background, their grades and their attitude. He then draws up a list for his foreign friends to choose which one they would like to help. Each student is subsidized until he or she finishes college.

"It's win-win to help others, because you can always get joys and fun," Zhang said. "I'm always moved by those foreigners."

"People usually say one for all and all for one," Zhang said. "But in my view, there's only one for all. The most painful thing to me is that I can't help others when they are in need.

"If someone received my help, they don't have to thank me. That's not why I help them. What I want is to pass the love around."


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