Family is not just about blood, but love – even it comes from a stranger.
A selfless woman in Beijing has looked after more than 100 children whose parents died in earthquakes – despite the fact that she’s battling against cancer herself.
In the past eight years, 60-year-old He Jiangping, who has breast cancer, has given all her heart to these homeless boys and girls, the youngest of whom was just two and a half when being taken in by her.
He Jiangping (circled) is pictured with some of the orphans she has helped with since 2010
The 60-year-old (pictured with her children) has battled against breast cancer for many years and is undergoing chemotherapy. However, her illness has never stopped her giving love
The selfless woman works for a charity organisation, but her love for the children goes beyond her job title. She has taught the boys and girls to be generous, confident and independent
Under Ms He’s meticulous care, many of these children have not only grown up to be healthy teenagers, but also top students in their school.
Some older ones have got into university – something they couldn’t even imagine when they realised they had lost their parents forever after devastating earthquakes.
But Ms He, who is the leader of a charity programme, prefers not to boast about her years of generosity, even though her story has moved millions of people in China.
‘I told them “mother” was not a word they should use easily. I told them they should save it for later if any family want to officially adopt them,’ Ms He told MailOnline.
But that never stopped the children. They call Ms He ‘mama’ or ‘lao ma’ to express their gratitude after having been nurtured by the benevolent woman for nearly a decade.
One of the children hugs He Jiangping during the second anniversary of Yushu Earthquake
Most of the orphans under Ms he’s care lost their parents in Yushu Earthquake, 6.9-magnitude disaster in 2010 which killed 2,698 people in the most impoverished part of China
Ms He and the children, mostly Tibetan, celebrate the Lunar New Year in 2017. Ms He stated.she encouraged the children to share housework, such as making dumplings for each other
Mr He, who has one daughter of her own, told MailOnline that all she wanted was for these children to have a healthy childhood and for them to know that they were no different from all the others.
The incredible story of Ms He, a former school teacher, began when she was appointed the project leader by the China Charities Aid Foundation for Children in February, 2010.
Two months later, a fatal 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Yushu county in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southern Qinghai province.
The natural disaster killed 2,698 people in the most impoverished part of China, whose residents are ethnically Tibetan. It also left 102 children to be orphans.
Ms He and her team decided to take care of these children whose life would otherwise be extremely hard had they kept living in Yushu. The youngest of them were just two and a half.
The children call Ms He ‘mama’ or ‘lao ma’ to express their gratitude after having been nurtured by the benevolent woman for nearly a decade at a charity centre in the Chinese capital, Beijing
Ms He and her team currently take care of 42 children, 19 girls and 23 boys. They sleep in bunk beds in two four-bedroom apartments in Beijing and study in primary, middle and high schools
Having been given five million yuan (£570,000) by her foundation, Ms He promised she and her team would care for the children until they reach 18 years old.
With the help of her co-workers and volunteers, the strong-willed woman arranged to transport the children from Yushu to Beijing, which is 2,478 kilometres away (1,539 miles).
She also arranged accommodation and education for them in Beijing, which proved to be challenging.
Ms He recalled she had to kneel down to school masters in order for them to take in the Tibetan children – because they were not from Beijing.
A further seven orphans were sent to Ms He and her team in 2013 after the 6.6-magnitude earthquake in Dingxi County in Gansu Province.
Although she is a charity worker, Ms He’s love for these children extends way beyond her job title.
She spent her nights in her charity centre with her ‘adopted’ children nearly every day, and only saw her grown up daughter three or four times a months.
While transportation, accommodation and education were hard to arrange, to help the children overcome their physiological trauma was much harder.
Mr He, a mother of one, stated.all she wanted was for these children to have a healthy childhood
Under Ms He’s care, many children have their specialty, such as sports, singing or dancing
Many of them are top students in their school. Pictured, one of them holds an award certificate
Ms He stated.one of the orphans, who was five years old at the time, wouldn’t stop feeding water to the his mother after the Yushu earthquake. What the child didn’t realise was that his mother, who was lying by the debris of a brick wall, had already been dead.
Other children had had to see their parents and family members covered in blood when they were dug out from collapsed houses.
‘Many children had nightmare every day when they first came. They got startled even when they saw a cat,’ stated.Ms He.
She contacted professional psychologists for the children to help them get over the difficult period.
Furthermore, Ms He stated.she wanted to teach them how to be generous, confident and independent. Whenever there was housework, such as making dumplings, she would encourage the children to share the task and help each other.
Ms He and her team took in 102 orphans from the 6.9-magnitude Yushu Earthquake in 2010 and seven from the 6.6-magnitude Dingxi Earthquake in 2013 – a total of 109 children
It costs 1.3 million to 1.5 million yuan (£150,000 and £172,000) for Ms He to run her charity home now, and all funds have been donated by companies and individuals
Money runs out quickly when one has a family as big as Ms He’s.
Ms He and her team currently take care of 42 children, 19 girls and 23 boys. The others have left the centre for university.
The children sleep in bunk beds in two four-bedroom rented apartments.
Ms He stated.it costs 1.3 million to 1.5 million yuan (£150,000 and £172,000) a year to raise these children, and the team didn’t receive any government subsidisation. Instead, all the expenses were covered by donations given by companies and individuals – a result of Ms He’s continuous fund-raising campaigns.
Despite all, Ms He’s own health is poor.
She has had cancer for quite some years. She had to retire from her teaching job after being diagnosed with the illness.
After rounds of chemotherapy, she decided to take on the charity project believing her cancer had been cured.
It would take Ms He and her team nine more years to raise all children, but Ms He is hopeful
Some of the Tibetan children at the charity centre showcase their dancing skills on stage
Sadly, Ms He’s cancer came back two years ago. She had undergone six rounds of treatment, and is still being treated.
‘I’m looking for someone to take over my role, but it’s difficult,’ Ms He said.
‘I need to find someone who is motherly, knows about education and understands how to find money.’
Ms He stated.it would take another nine years or so for all the children to be independent.
The determined woman stated.her mission would be complete albeit challenging, because ‘there are many kind people out there who have helped us and would carry on helping us’.
Tencent, one of China’s largest internet portals, has set up a donation page for He Jiangping and her team here.