Chinese Garbage Collector is Adopter of 21 Abandoned Children

September 6, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 6, 2006 12:00 am

Hu Tongkai, a poor garbage collector from Kunming City of China's southwestern Province of Yunan has adopted 21 abandoned children. Hu's life completely changed after he adopted the first abandoned child in 1993. His compassion has touched so many people that strangers are offering to help him one after another. Some parents have also taken back the children they had once abandoned. According to Xinhua website, on the morning of June 16, 1996, Hu Tongkai found a bloody infant girl with her umbilical cord still attached and trembling in a carton when he was sweeping the streets at an intersection in Kunming.

Hu rushed the infant to the hospital, and the premature baby was saved despite weighing barely over three pounds. Hu named her Jingjing.

When Hu Tongkai, who has two sons from his wife, adopted Jingjing, he already had taken in seven abandoned children. Hu could not afford the huge expenses of supporting this “family” based on his limited income as a cleaner. Hu began to sweep streets during the day and collect garbage in the evening. When he became too tired or sleepy to walk anymore, he would take a nap on the street corner.

Hu's wife did not understand why he adopted the orphans. In 1997, his wife took his two sons and left him, and Hu has heard nothing from them since. Having to take care of the children alone caused Hu to be late for work often. As a result, his salary was deducted and there was barely any pay. In 2000, Hu quit his job as a cleaner and since then has been known as the “Ragman King”.

When news of Hu Tongkai's adoptions reached his hometown in Jiangxi Province, none of his family or friends understood him. His younger brother Hu Liangkai even argued with him, suggesting that if he should not adopt abandoned children when he cannot even support himself. In the face of his younger brother's accusations, Hu Tongkai responded, “But this is a life—many people would rather raise pets than adopt [the orphans]. Aren't those little lives more important than pets?”

Despite difficulty and hardships, Hu Tongkai's decision to find the orphans' birth parents remains firm. He uses clues such as the child's birthday or parents' names. Hu looks for the biological parents door to door while collecting garbage.

Hu's efforts have not been in vain. Seventeen of the 21 abandoned children have been returned to their parents, and the rest have been adopted. Among those children, the oldest was 13-years old, and the highest number of children Hu has cared for at the same time is nine.

Hu Tongkai's story has spread and touched many. Staff from Ji'an Fuxing Vehicle Services became friends with Hu and have continually helped him and his daughter Jingjing.

Xie Guangjie of Yunan Power Grid Company and five of his co-workers have donated 2,000 yuan to Hu and often visit Hu and Jingjing. Xi said that he was touched by Hu's caring love and didn't realize how hard it is for Hu until they visited his home. They all wanted to do something to help Hu to continue to spread his love.

78-year-old Meng Yimeng from Yancheng, Jiangsu Province expressed his willingness to help care for Jingjing and is donating 200 yuan a month to support Jingjing.

Hu Tongkai keeps a notebook of the names and contact information of all his benefactors and hopes one day to be able to pay back those who have helped him.