Peddling a trishaw to finance poor students: Mr. Bai Fang Li touched the people of China.
This story is about an ordinary trishaw peddler who is well-known in Tianjin. From the age of 74, Mr. Bai Fang Li has supported hundreds of poor students using the money he earned from peddling trishaw. In fifteen years time, he has contributed more than 350,000 yuan to finance more than 300 poor students in their tuition fees and living expenses, helping them to complete their studies.
From the year 1986 to year 2000, using the money earned from peddling his trishaw, Mr. Bai Fang Li founded a company called Education Support Company and has contributed more than 350,000 yuan in the form of scholarships. Nobody really knows how many poor students have Mr. Bai Fang Li supported. In May 2005, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This thin and skinny elder did not keep any money or property for himself, what he has left is only his selfless spirit and love. Reporters have compiled an incomplete list of students whom had been sponsored by Mr. Bai Fang Li before to commemorate this weak and ordinary but noble elder who has touched the hearts of many people.
Saving on clothes and food, every month Mr. Bai Fang Li brings the money he saves to nearby schools and gives it to needy students to be used as their living expenses while he himself lives a frugal life that nobody can ever imagine. His daughter recalls “He suffers throughout his life, saving on food and drinks, stitching his torn pants over and over again. When you throw away his old pants and buy new ones for him, not only that he does not want to wear them but he also gets angry.”
When the elder peddles trishaw, his clothes, shoes and hates all do not match, as if he is a beggar. “I had never bought any clothes before. You see, the clothes that I wear are all picked up from the clothes people threw away. Look at my shoes, they are different, even the socks inside are different! The same applies to my hat; it was also collected from dumpsites.” he said. Besides not buying any clothing for himself, he even scrimps and saves on food. His diet is very simple. He often takes cold water and cold bread as his meal with a little bit of pickles sometimes. People often see him picking up leftover food such as bread or unfinished sausage and eats them. His family members who could not resist looking him like that have advised him but to no avail. In response to that, he simply picked up a bun and said to his children “What is so hard about this? This bun is the product of the farmers’ hard work. People throw it away; I pick it up and eat it; isn’t this a way to reduce wastage?”
It has been calculated that, over years, Mr. Bai Fang Li has peddled equivalent to going round the Earth’s equator for 18 (times?). Mr. Bai has never thought to be rewarded. The money that he donated mostly went through schools to needy students. The old man never inquired about the students’ name. Somebody attempted to find the list of students sponsored by Mr. Bai but he only found a photograph of him with a few children, and that is the only photograph ever taken. When asked about what he expected of the children, his humble reply was “I only want them to study hard, get a good job, be a good person and to give back to the country.”
In 2001, Mr. Bai Fang Li donated the last sum of money. Nearly 90 years old, he was unable to peddle trishaws anymore and no longer was he able to run his company. Instead, he looked after people’s car at the station and saved up to 500 yuan before he donated the money. After giving out his last sum of money, he said “I cannot work anymore, I can no longer donate money to others!” and that was the first time in her life his daughter Bai Jin Feng had ever heard her father saying that.
Mr. Bai passed away on September 23, 2005, in a hospital. Hundreds turned up at his funeral.