By Michael Czobit; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
When it comes to her days at school, eight-year-old Ruyan has only a general sense of time. Her routine is marked by communal meals and the music signifying the start of a new class period.
The young girl stays in her school's dormitory from Sunday to Friday. She sleeps in one of the top bunks in her room. Her school is considered small, with six teachers and 52 students. One of the 52 is also Ruyan's brother, Ruli, who's 11 and in Grade 4. Ruyan loves her brother. He plays games with her and defends her when their parents aren't around, which is a lot of the time.
Ruyan and Ruli share a common experience in modern-day China: many parents live apart from their children in order to earn a better wage.
Their parents, Minghui, 35, and Yaping, 27, live a few hours away in neighboring city. The siblings' grandparents are their main caregivers. This has been the case ever since Ruyan was seven months old. These children aren't alone; one might estimate around 60 million
are in the same situation.
Thankfully, their grandparents have shown great care for Ruyan and Ruli. When they're at home, Grandpa always helps out with homework. When she's at school, Ruyan misses her grandparents. She also misses her parents, but can't put why into words. At one point, Ruyan didn't see her mom for a full year. Usually, she sees her parents only twice a year" --for Children's Day and Chinese New Year.
Ruyan is pragmatic about her parents living away from their community. "My parents should work in the city [to earn more]," she says, but adds, "It would be good if my parents didn't go, because they could stay and help my grandparents do the farming."
Poverty in China can be easily misunderstood. Despite booming economic growth in the last 3 decades, at least 82 million people still live below the poverty line
, which is why World Vision works in the country. Both Ruyan and her brother are sponsored by Canadians.
Wenzhong and Xiu share a common dream for their grandkids: to be educated and to find work outside of the fields. In essence, they want them to find work in a city just as their parents have. But Xiu says, "They must work hard to earn a good life."
The original version of this story appeared in Childview Magazine.
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