At age 7, a Chinese village girl called Yi Miaomiao now shoulders the responsibility of caring for both her aged and sickly grandparents. Following her father’s death in a car crash last year, she decided to stay at home when her mother offered to take her along on her exodus to another province.
Yi Miaomiao’s grandparents, in their 60s, are both affected with medical conditions that prevent them from being able to look after their granddaughter. In addition to attending school, Miaomiao has to do virtually all the housework.
The family lives in the Yichang municipality in Hubei Province, central China.
The grandfather suffers from a severe skin disease, while his wife is mentally disabled.
The most valuable item Miaomiao has in her humble abode is a dated television set, Sanxia Evening News reported.
When her mother asked her if she wanted to move away, Miaomiao clung to her grandmother’s leg and begged to not be separated from her.
Because of her size, she cooks by standing on a bench to reach the stove. She pulls weeds on her family’s plot of 6 mu, or about one acre. They grow and sell potatoes, corn, and sweet potatoes. The better part of their income comes from the end-of-year pig sale.
“She’s a good child,” said Yi Renkuan, Miaomiao’s grandfather. “It’s a shame she doesn’t have a good destiny.”
As his skin ailment progresses, Yi Renkuan will lose the ability to move. He worries about who will take care of Miaomiao as he gets older and more frail.
Asked if she wants to go with her mother if she comes back home to pick her up, Miaomiao said no.
“It’s no fun over there. I want to be with my grandma and grandpa,” she said. “I want to earn a lot of money for them to spend.”
Miaomiao likes school, since she can spend time with classmates. She likes math the best, with a score of 95 out of 100 in the final exam.
Following media reportage, readers raised 5,500 yuan (about $840) from sympathetic readers. The money will be donated to the elementary school that Miaomiao attends.
User comments expressed sympathy for Miaomiao’s lot, as well as the greater social conditions that millions of children like her suffer throughout rural China.
One comment criticizes the authorities: “Using ‘filial piety’ to turn a tragedy into a happy ending! As if the government has nothing to do with it! Shameless!”
Another comment shares a darker story from China’s poor. “I’ve seen reports about a teenage girl who worked to supply tuition for her three brothers. She passed away before she was an adult. For the girl, it is disaster, for the three brothers, it’s a shame. There’s nothing touching about it.”
Other comments lay blame at the feet of the Communist Party.
“Their skill in turning tragedy into propaganda is unrivaled.”