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'Sunshine' program lends helping hand

A YOUNG woman from a poor rural family dropped out of school and came to Shanghai four years ago with the dream of making a big fortune.

But Pu Xinhui was soon forced to face reality. Then 19, Pu had only a middle school degree. To make a living, she worked as a part-time factory worker, a tele-marketer and even a caddy at a golf club with a monthly salary of 200 yuan (US$29.3).

She lost the caddy job because of her poor English.

"I was desperate," Pu said, adding that she had no choice but to do tough physical jobs with low pay and long working hours until a free training opportunity was offered to her by the local government.

The "sharing sunshine" program, launched by the Shanghai Community Youth Affairs Office, provides free training courses to children of poor, non-local families. It plans to help about 400 students every year, getting them into polytechnical schools for vocational skill training of one and a half years before helping them land jobs.

Pu was enrolled at a vocational school in February 2008, becoming one of the first students to benefit from the program. She graduated after studying for 18 months and secured a job as an attendant in a sports center in Pudong's Zhangjiang area.

"My low education had always made it tough for me to find a good job," Pu said, at her graduation ceremony last Wednesday.

Another 207 of the 232 students who were enrolled at the same time as Pu graduated along with her. More than 82 percent of the students have secured a job. Another 162 students who were enrolled last autumn are still studying at vocational schools.

The youth affairs office is calling for volunteers to help maintain the program.

"Migrant workers have contributed to the city's development," said Hu Zhe, an official with the office. "We should help their children integrate into the city and share the economic benefits."


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