Extract of a touching story by Theresa Tan in The Straits Times today:
MR ZHANG XINYUAN and his wife are an exceptional pair. The couple in Yuncheng city in northern China's Shanxi province have been taking in children abandoned by their parents because they were born with health problems.
Some of the health problems were so severe that the victims died soon after arriving at the Zhang household. Most of these unwanted children had congenital heart diseases, hydrocephalus - a usually congenital condition in which cerebrospinal fluid collects in the brain and causes abnormally rapid growth of the head - or cleft lips.
OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS, the Zhangs have cared for more than 80 such children, ranging from infants to young teens. While the benevolent couple managed to nurse some of these abandoned and sick children back to health before sending them on to orphanages for permanent care or putting them up for legal adoption, many of them died after failing to respond to medical treatment. Mr Zhang, who was a factory worker earning about 1,000 yuan (S$204) before his retirement about a decade ago, draws a monthly pension of 600 yuan.
Over the past few years, he and his 55-year-old peasant wife have exhausted their life savings and now turn to friends, relatives and their three grown sons and a daughter whenever they need financial help. Government subsidies cover most of the expenses of caring for the children while a charitable agency provides free medical treatment for most of those who are sick.