Poster girl of education charity finds new mission

Once a beneficiary of Project Hope, Su Mingjuan is now calling for more people to pitch in the country's endeavour to provide better education to all children.


Su Mingjuan, a member of the Anhui delegation of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, poses for a photo in front to the Great Hall of People in Beijing. [Photo/People's Daily]

October 21, 2022

BEIJING – Su Mingjuan, the former poster girl for China’s most influential education charity, has recently come back in the national spotlight as a delegate to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

In 1991, a photograph of the then 8-year-old Su, with a pair of large, crystal-clear eyes crying for knowledge, touched the heartstrings of numerous people.

Su was born to a poor farming family in Jinzhai, East China’s Anhui province. The image of Su, then a first-grader, was captured by a photographer who went into the remote mountainous areas to see how the Project Hope had helped rural drop-outs.

Su became the poster girl for Project Hope after this image moved numerous people in China. [Photo by Xie Hailong]

Project Hope, which was launched by the China Youth Development Foundation in 1989, is dedicated to helping poor children get an education.

Over the past three decades, it has made a difference in the lives of 6 million students from impoverished families nationwide, among which is Su.

The picture of Su, entitled “I want to go to school”, has been reprinted nationwide in newspapers, magazines and billboards, and has since become a symbol of the country’s efforts to promote nine-year compulsory education among all school-age children.

After gaining national fame, Su received large sums of donations from across the country, and her family no longer needed to worry about her tuition fee.

Su’s school, which was originally seated at a traditional ancestral temple with the classrooms only having paper-covered windows full of holes, was renovated into a new three-story building boasting spacious classrooms equipped with computers and other multimedia instruments.

The assistance from kind-hearted people has helped the girl walk out of her mountainous hometown and embrace a brighter life.

Su poses with the photo that made her the poster girl for Project Hope at the Sanhe Experimental School in Jinzhai, Anhui province, May 2018. [Photo/VCG]

Su was admitted to Anhui University in 2002. After graduation, she became an employee of the Anhui Branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. To repay the kindness from the people who have helped her, Su donated the salary of her first month to Project Hope. Since then, she has donated 1,000 yuan every month to help rural students from poor families.

In 2018, she used 30,000 yuan from her savings to set up a student assistance fund. To date, the fund has raised around 5 million yuan, and helped establish five Hope Schools.

Su is attending the quinquennial CPC national congress in Beijing as a member of the Anhui delegation. Once a beneficiary of Project Hope, she is now calling for more people to pitch in the country’s endeavor to provide better education to all children.

“I don’t want people to pay too much attention to me. I think we should focus on Project Hope and on how to help impoverished students, help those who really need help,” Su said.

The report delivered at the opening session of the congress pointed out that “China has built the world’s largest education system”.

The report highlighted the strategic importance of education in the country’s path of building a modern socialist country in all respects. In the journey of the new era, “China will accelerate the building of a high-quality education system, develop all-round education, and promote educational fairness,” the report said.

Zhou Qianyu contributed to the story.

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