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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: April 22, 2011 NO. 17 APRIL 28, 2011
A Little Charity Goes a Long Way
Micro-charity through the Internet makes giving more accessible and affordable

A WISH FULFILLED: Wang Zun of Chongqing points to a photo of Liang Xiaohua, an 8-year-old orphan in Youyang County, Chongqing, who receives a dictionary he donated (ZHOU HENGYI)

Boiled rice with an egg and kidney beans were the first free lunch for students in Hongban Primary School in Zhongjian Township of Qianxi County in China's Guizhou Province.

The meal was served on April 1. Though simple, it contained sufficient nutrition for the children.

Zhongjian Township, with no more than 2,000 residents, stretches over rugged mountains. Most students walk a long way to school. The one living farthest away from school has to walk two hours each way.

Previously, about three fourths of the school's 200-plus students did not eat lunch every day in school, while some other students brought lunch from home, and a small number went back home for lunch, reported China Youth Daily. Local people do not think it's a problem for students to go without lunch. Two meals a day are common in poor mountainous areas in west China.

The free lunch was provided with money raised via the Internet by several small online charities, including the Micro Plan charity headed by Liang Shuxin, COO of the social networking website Tianya.com.


The free lunch initiated by Liang is a typical example of micro-charity, a new form of charity that means anyone can offer a little help to others, which has been made easier via the Internet.

Different from the charity model in which companies and rich people donate large sums of money, micro-charity is a revolutionary model that means ordinary people can do simple and small things for others, Liang said.

Liang learned many students in Hongban Primary School did not have lunch to eat on March 9 from a program aired on China Central Television.

Upon watching the program, Liang decided to launch a free lunch program for primary students in poor areas, starting from Hongban Primary School. That afternoon he told his plan to two other online charity groups.

Liang sold virtual fund-raising lunches priced at 5 yuan ($0.75) on Taobao.com, an e-commerce portal in China, and told netizens that a donation of 5 yuan ($0.75) could buy lunch for a child. He posted detailed project plans, including the budget on the website. In one hour, he sold more than 1,000 virtual lunches.

Liang and his team members also posted information about this program on micro-blogs, Internet forums and QQ, an instant messaging system in China.

In less than a month, more than 350,000 yuan ($53,846) was raised, according to Zhejiang-based Qianjiang Evening News. The money was enough to provide free lunches for three years to students at the Hongban Primary School.

Liang is not the first person to organize micro-charity in China. Several years ago, founder of charity website 1kg.org, who goes by his alias An Zhu on the Internet, called on netizens to carry an additional one kg of supplies for students in remote rural areas when they travel to those places.

When An traveled to a village in southwestern Yunnan Province in 2004, he found that few students in the village went to school, and of those in school, few had read any books besides the text books, while some did not even have erasers or a pencil-sharpener.

So An launched the "one kg initiative" and set up a website. He suggested netizens carry books and stationery for poor students when they travel to poor regions.

Recently, during the 2011 Chinese Lunar New Year, Wang Zun and Xu Yuanbin, two young people from Chongqing Municipality traveled to Zhongtuo Village in Youyang County of Chongqing. In this poor village, they met an 8-year old orphan girl named Liang Xiaohua. They learned that Liang's New Year wish was to have a dictionary.

Wang and Xu gave the girl a dictionary and posted her story online. Netizens moved by the story have donated nearly 50,000 dictionaries to poor students in the area.

Micro-charity has become a fad for some middle class young people. Some of them emulate each other and raise money online for courses they support.

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