"I once had a very hard life, so I know the importance of supporting those who now experience hardships," said Min Shengcai, an education official and Party secretary of a charity organization, who is paying society back with kindness.
Born in a backwater village in Lintan county in northwest Gansu province, Min's parents went to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region for work when he was in junior high school, leaving him behind in the village.
"I was very lonely and felt insecure all the time. Whenever one of the other children and I had a quarrel, I was always the one bullied and laughed at because my parents weren't with me," said the 40-yearold.
Poverty nearly put an end to Min's education the year he was ejected from senior high school.
"My family was too poor to cover my tuition fee, which was around 200 yuan ($68) back then. So my parents had to borrow money from relatives and friends to help me continue," he said.
"I still remember that in my first year of senior high school, I failed an interview for a school show just because of my worn-out clothes. It's rare for people who've never experienced hardship to feel that kind of frustration, but I did."
Thankfully, the hardship toughened Min, rather than wrecking him, giving him the courage to overcome challenges and show kindness to others in difficulty.
After enrolling in Northwest Normal University in Gansu's capital Lanzhou in 2000, Min persuaded his peers to give free lectures to poverty-stricken students in Lintan over the summer and winter holidays. About 500 students benefited from these voluntary lessons during his college years.
Min's kindness didn't stop there. In 2008, when a devastating earthquake hit Sichuan's Wenchuan county, Min, at the time a postgraduate student at Northwest Normal University, chose to volunteer. He helped rescue disaster-hit residents and gave counseling to students.
Among the students he helped was Hei Zhenglan, who had lost her parents during the quake and had taken to isolating herself due to the shock. To help her, Min traveled back to Gansu to apply for a monthly 300-yuan relief payment from the Gansu Red Cross Society.
After finishing postgraduate studies, Min started work as a civil servant and moved to Lintan in 2012.
In April 2018, he was dispatched to Tianjin to take up a temporary post at the city's Dongli Education Bureau.
"I decided to learn from their experience in education and management and tried my best to connect my hometown and Tianjin," he said.
Min was amazed at the great difference between education in Tianjin and his village. "Whenever I had the chance to visit schools in Tianjin, I found that there were gaps between urban areas and the countryside in terms of education," he recalled.
To help students in his home county gain access to experienced teachers, Min worked hard to set up online classes so that teachers in Tianjin could give lessons to students in Lintan.
He also collected donations totaling 470,000 yuan for 13 schools in Lintan from April 2018 to October 2020, and he was able to help nearly 1,300 students.
Though both working conditions and salary were better than at his previous post, Min chose to return to Lintan after he finished work in Tianjin in October 2018.
"My hometown needed me. There are fewer people with higher education in these places," he said. "Some of the students in junior high schools don't even know how to start a computer or master basic laptop skills. They need teachers to broaden their minds," he said.
Passionate about charity, Min has so far helped about 1,900 students and hopes to help at least 10,000 during his lifetime. He was elected chairman of the Lintan Charity Association in June 2020.
"I hope that charity work can be standardized, with defined regulations and management teams to ensure that it becomes a long-term, sustainable sector," he said. "Also, I hope that we can foster more talent in Lintan. As long as we have talent here, the place can develop in a sustainable way."