A girl from Anhui province has taken to dressing up as a cow and charging the public 5 yuan to ride her in order to collect enough money to pay for her father’s medical expenses.
While most children of this age would be enjoying the last of their childhood freedom in middle school before gaokao pressure sets in, 15-year-old Hao Dongdong (an alias) spends each day begging on the street so she can care for her father who suffers from a rare debilitating disease called ankylosing spondylitis which affects the spine.
According to NetEase, her father, Hao Xinli, was originally a farmer but moved to Hefei in 2000 to set up a small shop as he began to have trouble with his back and could no longer work the land. Around his time he married his wife, Li Xiuru.
While shopping in Hefei, the couple saw a mobile phone store giving things away as part of a promotion and rushed over to collect what they could. After getting into a dispute with the sales staff for taking too many free items, Li Xinli was pushed in a physical altercation and says that from that day onwards the pain he experienced has become excruciating.
After consulting a doctor, Xinli was found to have fractured his spine and damaged his neck, leaving his upper body paralyzed. Police were unable to assign blame for the incident and so he received no compensation from the store, leaving their family to pay the cost of a necessary operation and his ongoing medical expenses.
After a period of instability, Li Xiuru gathered her things and left the family. Xinli says he can understand why she left. “It was probably too painful to endure, seeing me with no hope of recovery and her having no close relatives living in Hefei,” he said.
The departure of her mother left Hao Dongdong and her siblings as the sole providers for the household, forcing her to beg for longer hours during the day.
Dongdong says that she is often called a scammer by passersby and on one occasion was actually slapped in the face by a drunk man who thought she was trying to cheat him.
Local businesses have also not been kind to her, believing that she will be bad for their business. The lack of support doesn’t however stop her from taking home over 400 yuan in collections each day.
Xinli says that his greatest wish is that he will one day be able to stand again and not be a burden for his family. He would like to send Dongdong to school and for them to enjoy a normal family life again.
[Images via NetEase]