Four years ago, Shanghainese woman Su Ruihua (苏瑞华) lost her husband of 47 years. Following the last request of her spouse — that she use their accumulated wealth "wisely" — Su decided to donate the entirety of the couple's life savings to update a dilapidated school. The chosen location? A poverty stricken area of rural Tengchong in western Yunnan.
After first conducting her own research online, and then consulting with a Shanghai-based charity organization, Su selected Tengchong County Experimental Nationalities Middle School. When she discovered it, the facility was in the process of much-needed and expensive renovations. Su donated two million yuan (US$299,000) in March, and an entirely new school building was completed this week.
Su chose Tengchong because her husband, Sa Benren (萨本仁), lived there during World War II. At the tender age of 16, he found himself working as an interpreter at an airfield for Flying Tigers pilots. Sa often regaled his wife with stories from the war, recalling the camaraderie between him and the foreign airmen. While explaining to reporters her family's relation to the area, Su recalled of her husband:
He was an intelligent man, but also very stingy. My husband would always walk a few kilometers to work to avoid paying for the bus. But he was also a generous and kind person. He lived frugally all his life and never begrudged helping others. [Donating our savings] is what he would have wanted to do.
The new building paid for by Su bears her husband's name. It contains modern classrooms, which replace the school's older, outdated ones that contained little more than scarred chalkboards and simple wooden desks. Additionally, the school can now extend enrollment to more students, which is crucial in an area of Yunnan where many poor children face enormous obstacles while trying to receive an education.
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