Xiaojie with her teacher and classmates in school
I have many stories about SOAR, especially the story of how destiny led me to SOAR. Before SOAR came into my life, I was a middle school dropout. I was thirteen years old, and like many other children in my village, I was busy working in the field day and night. One day, in tears, I wrote a note in my crooked handwriting “Teacher, I want to go to school, please help me!” I asked my friend to take it to my elementary school teacher.
Why did I send such a message? This goes back to my childhood. When I was three, my father (who I later learned that was actually my adopted father) and my 13-year-old brother encountered a terrible storm when they were herding cattle in the mountains. I heard that my brother’s digital watch caused both of them to get hit by lightning and die. My adopted mother took me to live with the third of her seven daughters. My adopted sister had two kids, and she also had to support her in-laws. When I was nine years old, my adopted mother died of a stroke all of a sudden and left me all alone in the world. Her death was a big blow to me, and caused me to become increasingly silent. I was constantly afraid, and I had frequent red-eye diseases from crying too much. Fortunately I had a very kind adopted sister, who started taking care of me like a mother. It was not unusual that kids from poor families quit school to help out in the field. My adopted brother-in-law a farmer, was a straightforward person. He told me not to go to school any more but stay at home to help the grownups with the farm work. I quietly listened to him and agreed.
It was the week in June that the entrance exams to middle school were going on, but I had to work in the field with the grownups. Maybe luck started favoring me from that day on. It suddenly began to rain in the morning, so we couldn’t go to the field to work. I confided in my adopted sister that I wanted to take the entrance exams. My sister sent me off with a packet of Ramen noodles. I took the exams and got top scores. However on the first day of middle school, I did not attend. China had just rolled out the nine-year compulsory education policy. Officials from the school district started to visit rural families whose kids didn’t go to middle school. Due to my orphan status, my address had been registered with my adopted sister’s old address, the school officials couldn’t find me. But because of that hand-written note sent from me, my elementary school teacher from fifth grade took the school district officials to my house and tried to convince my family to let me go to middle school. My adopted brother-in-law agreed to it, but just couldn’t afford it. I postponed my registration. That autumn, my elementary school teacher brought me the good news that the I was selected to receive financial support from the SOAR Foundation.
When I received the letter and 680 Yuan (about $100) from SOAR, I finally could return to school to continue my study. I was like a fish returning to water saved by SOAR.
I am not an extremely smart kid, but I loved learning, because I knew that was the only way to improve my life. I didn’t have grand goals. I just wanted to leave the village I lived in, where we didn’t even have a major street. I remember dreaming about opening a big supermarket in town one day, and it would have a lot of green vegetables, as we didn’t have many green vegetables, let alone fresh fruits. We barely had enough to eat to survive at the time.
I didn’t do well in the high school entrance exams so I didn’t get admitted into a top high school. My brother-in-law thought there was no point to continue my study if I didn’t go to a good high school, so once again I was prepared to quit. That was when I received a letter from my SOAR mentor, Ms. Cui, who shared with me her personal stories to encourage me to keep up with my study. I became more determined, and I mustered up enough courage to negotiate with my brother-in-law for the first time. I cried to him, “As long as you agreed to let me go to high school, I won’t spend a penny of yours. Although I cannot help you work in the field to make money, when I come back to visit you in the future, I’ll definitely bring you more than just a few bags of milk powder!” (His daughter only had up to 5th grade education, and when she came home to visit after she was married, she would only bring some milk powder.) My brother-in-law was moved and agreed. I went back to high school. I got excellent grades in high school, so school gave me financial support. It spared me any additional charge outside the 2,040 Yuan (about $400) that the SOAR Foundation was giving me. In 2006 I got admitted into North China Electric Power University in Beijing. I took train for the first time and travelled to Beijing to begin my four-year college life. After I graduated in 2010, I switched jobs a few times until I settled down as an accountant in the Chia Tai Group. When I was Beijing, the person I was the most thankful to was Ms. Kejia Zhu. She was both my mentor and my good friend. She gave me advice on all aspects of my life including my dating and career life.
I settled down in Beijing when I got married in 2012. After I had my first child, I quit my job, and now I am a stay-at-home mom, welcoming a second child soon. Despite these plain words that I type on my computer, this is my real life experience that I lived through. I’m very grateful for everything I have, and my rich life experience is a great asset to me.
I feel the love from all around me, therefore I give back endless love to the world. Even though I found out after I got married that my biological parents were still alive, living in a remote village with their four daughters, and even though I found out that I was the result of their unfair preference for a son over a daughter, all this no longer really affected how I felt. When people asked me if I hated my biological parents for deserting me, I honestly don’t hate them at all. Perhaps it’s because I had received so much love from others in my life. I always remembered how my adopted sister took good care of me. I was grateful that my brother-in-law took me in. I was especially grateful to my parents for adopting me despite the fact that they already had many children of their own. Maybe they didn’t have the heart to see me abandoned at just three days old. I’m grateful to my kind teachers. I’m grateful to SOAR for finding me in such a remote village, and helping me return to school. I’m grateful for meeting my husband in college, where he noticed me, a very thin girl who was always the last one to the cafe and always only buying a bowl of fried rice and some pickles. It was he who helped me eat better and live a more exciting life in college. I’m extremely grateful for my lovely daughter and the happy family life she brought me. I’ve received so much love in my life that I don’t feel a shred of hatred. With ease I will accept whatever cards life deals me, but I will not allow fate to dictate my path. We cannot choose what life we are born into, but we can choose how we want to live our life!
Ever since destiny brought SOAR to my life, I have been extremely lucky. I believe that all the other children SOAR helps will also be equally lucky if they stay their course and work hard for a better life. Lucky stars will favor all of you, and SOAR will bring you good fortune. Come on, you can do it, my little brothers and sisters!
Xiaojie and her family in Beijing, 2015