As both a volunteer and a teacher of students with special needs, I’ve experienced all-levels of “POOR” for all my life. Having traveled, both in America and other countries, I thought I’d seen “POOR” at its worst but… I was wrong.
On my journey of ALL THE WALL, I spent TIME among China’s POOREST OF THE POOR. I depended on THE POOR for water, peanuts, shelter, and directions. I’ve never known kinder hearts or more-giving people…anywhere. The average Chinese in China’s remote countryside receives approximately 35 renminbi each month (approximately $ 4.25 American dollars). I could detail the many dreadful conditions I’ve seen; the appalling sights I’m unable to erase from my memory but---the POOR in China have a creative talent--- especially during emergencies—that can only be described as: priceless.
Her name is Qian Hongyan but most people know her as the “BASKETBALL GIRL”. She was just another four-year- old girl, living in a very poor and remote village of Yunnan Province, until a severe traffic accident robbed her of both legs and hips. Months after healing from 4 major surgeries, she was still unable to do anything but lie in bed. Her grandfather, determined to give his granddaughter balance and mobility---designed a pair of wooden hand grips as her “walkers” then cut a Basketball in half to stabilize her lower body. From that moment….she had freedom to move, go inside and outside, interact with everyone in the village, and smile! She showed people the “other” side of being disabled….the side that says “I’m strong and determined, and I don’t have time to be a victim”.
People began talking about the amazing “BASKETBALL GIRL”. Writers and photographers visited the small village in Yunnan Province. In just a few days, Qian Hongyan became a celebrity. Her unique story spread around the world and--before long—she was invited to visit the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing to be fitted for new legs. Soon after receiving her new legs, Qian Hongyan joined a swim club for the disabled, sponsored by THE YUNNAN PROVINCIAL FEDERATION FOR THE DISABLED. It was the first of its kind in China.
Today, Qian Hongyan is a confident and pretty young woman in her early twenties. People around the world know her, follow her success, and some send money, religiously, to help her and her family. She is a competitive swimmer with many trophies and medals to her credit. She continues to “work out” at the pool at least four hours each day. Now that’s she’s all-grown-up, she no-longer needs to wear her faithful “Basketball”. Now, with so-many friends and a very-active social life, Qian Hongyan prefers to wear the latest in adult, prosthetic legs, which are designed especially for Qian Hongyan’s disability.
She continues to serve as a major role model for China’s disabled---and for the disabled--everywhere.