Chen Chunlin, her father and her brother at her dorm [Xinhua]
A 20-year-old national moral model, who has taken care of her paralyzed father alone since 15, recently started her university life in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province.
This July, Chen Chunlin, from Zhongshan County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was admitted to the School of Physics and Technology, Central China Normal University (CCNC).
Over the past two months, she was in regular contact with the university about applying for a student loan whilst searching house-rental information on the Internet.
Daunted by the high costs, she called the university's aid center which then arranged a free two-room dorm for the freshman and her parent.
Shouldering Family Responsibilities at a Young Age
Chen's parents were both farmers. In 2006, her mother died of a brain hemorrhage.
In 2012, when Chen was 15, her father was paralyzed by a sudden stroke. As a result, she and her younger brother had to suspend school.
Chen stayed at home to look after the ill parent while her brother went to work in the neighboring province of Guangdong.
"At that time, Chunlin was thiner and shorter than now. After she got up every morning, she worked on my family's vegetable field. Then she cooked for me, gave me a massage and helped me with my rehabilitation exercises," recalled Chen's father.
"In the beginning, I was passive and felt despair. My daughter often comforted and encouraged me: 'If you really want to ease our burden, follow the doctors' words and exercise more.'"
Chen spent four hours every day helping her father do rehabilitation training. As his physical condition showed some improvements, he built up confidence.
Under her tender care, her father can now walk half an hour with a crutch.
Returning to Campus with Father
In 2013, aided by her teachers and social charities, Chen returned to school. Later, she was admitted to a local senior high school. During that period, she always took her father by her side.
Chen's relatives tried to convince her to send her father to a welfare home. She said: "I'm already accustomed to taking care of my father and will always put him above everything else."
"Wherever I go, I'll take my father with me. Where there is my father, there is my home!"
Moreover, she gives her family's meager savings to her father. "My father often says he is useless. I ask him to manage money so he feels that he can still do something for us," said the youngster.
"When I first saw Chen, our teacher said she was just the virtuous girl who carried her father to school on her back. I was astonished. Life was so hard to her but she always wore sunny smiles," said Zhang Surong, a classmate.
Zhang recalled Chen often took newspapers back to her dormitory after class to help her father kill time, and that Chen often took his arm and helped him walk in the playground on weekends.
"Chen has carried her father with her since 15. It's really not easy for her to be admitted to a key university," said Xiong Xiaohong, one of Chen's high school teachers.
"Chen was actually under great pressure but she eased it with her optimism and grasped every second to study."
Wanting to Be a Teacher
Chen's father said: "In fact, I always feel I owe my daughter a lot. Seeing her working so hard, I often cry secretly."
"It was only when my daughter returned to school that I felt a little better."
"Along my way, I have received help from many teachers so I want to become a teacher in the future to repay society. This is why I applied to this university," Chen said.
"There may be many other difficulties ahead, but I will definitely figure out a way to solve them. My father and I will become better and better."
"I'll enhance my training to reduce Chunlin's burden," added the parent.
After learning Chen's family conditions, CCNC has paid great attention, preparing a faculty dormitory, basic furniture and daily necessities for them.
"Our department will try our best to offer Chen related assistance," said Wu Jiancheng, a Party official at CCNC's School of Physics and Technology.
(Source: Changjiang Daily/Translated and edited by Women of China)