In July 2015, an elementary school girl’s poem entitled Tears appeared on the Internet. The author of the poem was Liu Yan (pen name), a fourth-grade Yi girl from the Loving Care Elementary School in Daliangshan, Sichuan, China. In the most concise language, Tears describes the tragic experience of a girl who lost her parents.
My dad passed away four years ago.
My mother tried to make something special for me every day to comfort me because I was my dad’s favorite. My mother probably missed him too.
Then, mother got sick and went into town. She spent all her money, but she was still sick.
One day, mother was so sick that she could not get out of bed. I cried and said: “Mom, you have to get well. I’ll support you. Please eat what I cooked for you. After that, take a nap and you will get well.”
The next day, my mother still stayed in bed, and she was taken to the hospital in town.
The third day, I went to see mother. She was sleeping and I washed her hands gently
Mother held my hand and called me by my nickname, “Mei-Mei, I want to go home.”
“Why? Something wrong?”
“I am not comfortable here and I am more comfortable at home.”
I took mom home. After sitting for a while, I told mom that I would cook something for her to eat. When I finished my cooking, I came to my mom, but she had already passed away.
Huang Hongbin, Chairman of the Soma Charity Foundation that built the school, posted the essay online. The Foundation has long-term training and organized volunteers to teach in remote areas such as Daliangshan. According to Huang Hongbin, he saw some student compositions posted on a classroom wall, including the poem Tears. When he found out that the poem was true, he posted it on the social media website, Weibo. The poem caused a social media sensation, prompting the local authorities to hold a press conference, claiming that Soma Flower Love Primary School was suspected of operating outside the legal framework of the school administration.
The school’s origins
When Huang Hongbin passed through Daliangshan, he discovered two out-of-school Yi girls gathering firewood on the roadside. After further inquiries, he found out that many more children did not attend school in the area. As a public good, his foundation decided to build an elementary school for the children. The Soma Charity Foundation built dozens of schools in the area, but Soma Flower Love Primary School was the only school built and operated by the foundation.
As news of the poem spread, the outside world became aware of the poverty and suffering of the Yi people in the mountainous region. A visiting news reporter noted: “People and animals live together in this place. On the left side of one small house, a family of seven lives while farm animals are kept on the right side of the house. The farmer’s reasoning was simple, he had no money to repair the barn and was afraid that the animals would freeze to death at night.”
An investigation was conducted by local authorities after the poem was widely circulated, and the Soma Charity Foundation was accused of having no standardized teaching procedures and was banned from operation. Huang Hongbin referred to the entire situation as “a tragic incident caused by a very sad story.”
Translated by Yi Ming