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“I’m a full-time Dad,” the young father, sitting in the couchette with a baby in his arms, responded when asked what his job was by a curious 6-year-old girl. He was on his way back home from Zhejiang province to Zunyi of Guizhou Province. “I am actually doing some small retail businesses now, so I have more time to take care of my baby together with my wife,” he added.

PC: Wang Jinmei

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A’Lian, who lives in Langdeshang Village in Miao and Dong Autonomous County in southeast Guizhou Province, has raised a son and a daughter. Besides performing folk dances for tourists, she often, carrying a small bamboo basket, sells her hand-made silver and embroidered adornments to tourists like any other Miao woman. “This doesn’t make too much money, but at least it is better than just feeding pigs or cultivating land,” she said.

PC: Wang Jinmei

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Timmy was always the problem child. At age 15, he had the stature of a 10-year-old, the personality of a 7-year-old, and the hunchback of a 90-year-old. He was the only student yet to learn the alphabet, stubbornly stuck at the letter “W”– in a class of fifth graders. But there was something so charming about “little grandpa”, he was later nicknamed; he was the only one to stay after class, helping me sweep the dusty concrete while humming his own off-key version of the Chinese National Anthem. And when it came time for us to leave, he wore his nicest shoes, orange sneakers, and tears spilling down his face, still sat hunched over, happily sucking on his favorite lollipop. A year later, I returned to Anhui, only to discover that Timmy had been sent away by the principal. Rumor had it that he had been falling too far behind to stay in school, forcing him into work, a reality all too familiar for 留守儿童 (left-behind children). We miss you, 陈永平.

Jing Province, Anhui

PC: Grace Chen
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*Note: Youth Building Bridges is an international educational program established by C&T Youth Technology Academy. This program, through collaborative effort with organizations such as Aixin Foundation, the Building Bridges program of Yale University, Princeton University and Jiaotong University in Shanghai China, empowers American high school students, American college students and Chinese college students to travel to rural, poverty-stricken areas in China, assisting primary and secondary education systems. Through educational and social guidance, American students develop an international perspective and gain a unique understanding of the power of education within the global community.