A former Project Hope poster girl is now donating to the Chinese education project for poor students from which she herself once benefited.
In 1991 when Su Mingjuan was 8 years old, a photographer from Beijing-based China Youth Daily took a picture of her in a shabby classroom in poverty-stricken Jinzhai county, Anhui Province.
With her large, crystal-clear eyes, Su touched the heartstrings of numerous people and became a symbol of the country's most influential public welfare project that promotes nine years of compulsory education among all school-age children.
Born to a poor family in East China's Anhui Province, Su was once on the verge of dropping out of school due to a lack of money. After gaining national fame, she received donations from across the country, and her family no longer needed to worry about her tuition fees. She continued her schooling, went to college and worked for a bank after graduation.
"Going to school wasn't easy for us. Everyone cherished the opportunity to study," said Su. "Without the help from charitable institution Project Hope, I wouldn't have had a chance to study, and I wouldn't have my current job either."
As a beneficiary of the education charity, Su herself has also been helping poor students.
She donated her first paycheck to the Project Hope and has donated 1,000 yuan every year since she started working.
In 2018 she established a fund in her name to help poor students. The fund so far has aided 45 college freshmen.
"Project Hope has given me financial support and encouraged me to foster the spirit of self-reliance and self-motivation," Su said.
The project was initiated by the China Youth Development Foundation and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China in 1989, and has been supported by people from all walks of life since its establishment.
As of 2021, Project Hope has received 19.42 billion yuan ($2.67 billion) in donations and aided over 6.63 million students in financial difficulty. A total of 20,878 primary schools were built under the project.