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6-Year-Old AIDS Orphan A-Long Lives Alone In Guangxi

Guangxi AIDS orphan A-Long.

From QQ: (with additional photographs from Sina)

Guangxi 6-year-old AIDS orphan lives alone, eats rice and vegetables without oil or salt yet still eats with relish

In your childhood, what were you doing? Begging daddy to buy a toy, being pressed by mommy to learn a foreign language, taking the pocket change that grandma secretly gave you, sharing the bubblegum you just bought with your friends… When you couldn’t get what you wanted, did you sigh like a little adult: “It sucks being a child!” However, A-Long wouldn’t. By himself, he washes his laundry and makes his meals. Alone, he feeds the chickens and raises the dog. Alone, he studies and learns to read. Alone, he goes to sleep. A-Long never feels it sucks being himself, even though he is only 6-years-old this year.

Guangxi AIDS orphan A-Long's home.

A one person “home”

Niuchepin Village at the foot of Liuzhou City’s Malu Mountain is a village built on the mountain, the cement road beginning at the foot of the mountain and spreading upward, both sides lined with buildings.  The further up the mountain you go, the narrower the road becomes, and the scale of the buildings too become smaller. Halfway up the mountain, all that is left is a dusty mud road, with weeds all around. At the end of the road are 3 casually built single story cement block cottages that don’t even have windows. November 2, accompanied by a staff worker of the village committee, this reporter saw the scene at the top [end of this road].

This here is 6-year-old A-Long’s home, a one person “home”.

AIDS orphan A-Long playing alone in front of his home in Guangxi.

Amongst them, one stand-alone small building, owing to having a “stove” made of several piled up cement block blocks and a ceramic bed pan installed as a “toilet” and thus its “facilities” were relatively complete, was A-long’s “bedroom”. For the other two connected buildings, dilapidated wooden doors symbolically them away, though there were no locks. As it is understood, A-Long once lived in one of those [two] buildings, but because his father passed away there, no one has gone near those two buildings since. A-Long himself has not entered them again, only often walking back and forth in front of the door. “Is it because you feel your dad is still inside sleeping?” A-Long did not reply, hesitating for a moment before running away.

A-Long playing with his faithful dog "Old Black".

In front of the small building is a very large open area. It is the main area A-Long spends most of his time normally, and the one thing that he does the most is embracing the dog he calls “Lao Hei” [“Old Black”, maybe like “Blackie”], staring blankly at the road that leads to the outside world. After his father passed away, A-Long has yet to go down the mountain again.

Seeing an uncle and auntie [not related, often simply means an older man and woman] he recognizes from far away, A-Long appears very happy. The village committee’s staff worker takes out a box of cookies/crackers and bananas, very naturally places them in the room, and warns A-Long not to eat the cookies as a meal, this obviously not being the first time giving A-Long something. Hearing what uncle said, A-Long adorably nodded his head, and grinned.

AIDS Orphan A-Long plays with a ball by himself.

A one person future

The staff worker told this reporter that A-Long’s situation is really worrisome, but all the village committee can do is guarantee that he doesn’t have to worry about food and clothing at the moment. Although they have already helped him apply for social security/welfare benefits, 70 yuan a month plus the support of some kind-hearted people alone is far from enough for A-long to grow up on. “No food to eat or clothes to wear, that we can buy. But A-Long’s medical care, education, and upbringing, what we can do is not much.”

So what are other government departments doing?

A-Long strikes a pose for the reporter's camera.

A relevant representative of Liuzhou City’s disease control center HIV prevention department told this reporter that with regards to A-Long’s medical condition, as long as it involves anti-HIV medication it is free, but they cannot do anything for any medication outside of this.

The city’s civil affairs bureau’s staff delivered to A-Long two quilts, as well as a social security/welfare benefits account passbook. The staff said, what A-Long applied for is rural social security, which is 70 yuan every month right now, but will increase to 100 yuan a month next year. Other than that, they will also often send A-Long some living supplies, guaranteeing that he will not starve or suffer the cold. However, owning to A-Long’s family situation being relatively complicated, the social welfare organization is unable to adopt him, only able to continue communicating with A-Long’s relatives, fighting for A-Long’s rights and interests.

A-Long is a Chinese AIDS orphan.

On the education side, though A-Long is of school age, for him to sit in a classroom attending lessons like his peers is beset with difficulties.

As it is understood, A-Long has previously attended one term at the Malu Mountain primary school’s preschool class, but then stopped. The school principal Chen Xiyou says the management of the preschool class is different from the elementary classes, that the preschool class at the time just happened to have a space, and thus had allowed him to attend.

Principal Chen says that after A-Long’s father passed away, the information that A-Long’s parents had died because of AIDS began circulating in the village, and A-Long’s medical examination showed that he was HIV-positive, so if A-Long were to really come to school, then the school would face a lot of pressure [problems] too. “The school’s preschool class plus the first and second grades have one to two hundred people. With this many little children of the same age, it is difficult to avoid the common arguments and fights, so what would the parents of other students think?”

AIDS orphan A-Long in Guangxi, China.

According to disclosures by someone familiar with the situation, after school started in September, A-Long’s grandmother had wanted to send A-Long to attend first grade, but when parents learned of it, they sent a group letter in protest, the school succumbed to the pressure and did not agree to admit A-Long to the school.

“Considering his real life situation, our school immediately submitted a report to the education department concerning this matter. The education department, the civil administration bureau, and the village committee have all already held collective meetings to discuss A-Long’s matter, but a decision/conclusion has not yet been made.” As the school principal was saying this, a nearby parent interrupted to say: “If he really comes to school to attend class, then I can only transfer my own child to another school. I would be too worried.”

A-Long in rural China. He is an AIDS orphan.

After much effort, this reporter was able to get in touch with a non-governmental organization in Nanning that take care of AIDS orphans. A member of this organization expressed that they can indeed accept AIDS orphans, but they have to see if A-Long’s circumstances are suitable. The staff member said it is because their method is to arrange foster care, but it isn’t the best way of raising a child for the child. If A-Long has relatives, they still hope that the relatives can be persuaded to adopt A-Long. “A family’s warmth and the care of relatives is something that foster care cannot give.” At the same time, the staff member also expressed that they will go a step further in understanding A-Long’s family situation, and if it is necessary, they can provide A-Long help.

AIDS orphan A-Long carries a dried log on his shoulder by himself.

Only one person to rely on

As it is understood, A-Long’s father was a villager of Niuchepin Village and his mother married into the village. Six years ago, A-Long’s parents built the house where they lived until they passed away, leaving A-Long to live there alone until this day.

At the time, why did A-Long’s parents suddenly move onto the mountain so far away from the village? The villagers all refuse to say why.

A villager who knows said that A-Long’s father had spent over ten years out of the village when he was young, and it is said that it was because he had gone to jail. When it comes to just released inmates, everyone will have some prejudices, “so maybe it was because of this that they did not have very good relations with everyone else.”

A-Long carrying a pot of food.

The only person who is close with A-Long is his 84-year-old grandmother. His grandmother often comes to see him, but it is not everyday that she comes. That afternoon, his grandmother happened to come by, and so A-Long did not have to feed the chickens, nor did he have to pick the vegetables himself, and could play a little more. His grandmother had planted two plots of vegetables in the open area beside the house, one plot of cabbage, one plot of leeks/chives. She says this is normally enough for A-Long to eat.

His grandmother lives in another of her son’s home, and it takes her about 15 minutes to walk here where A-Long lives. She normally comes in the afternoons, and cooks for A-Long before leaving. As for things like bathing and the laundry, A-Long says he knows how to do them himself, that he can wash [the laundry] clean, and as long as he stands on a stool when drying the laundry, he can reach the clothes drying line.

A-Long with his grandmother, who visits him but will not live with him.

This reporter asked the grandmother if she was able to live here and raise A-Long until he is big? She hesitantly said that she herself is a little afraid of living here. Could she take A-Long to his uncle’s place to live? The grandmother did not answer, lowered her head, and sorted the cabbage she had just picked.

The village [committee’s] staff workers are also people whom A-Long has had relatively more contact with, and he knows that these uncles and aunties really care about him. Every time they come to see him, they will bring good things to eat and new clothes.  A while ago, the temperature had suddenly dropped very sharply, and one auntie came on consecutive nights to deliver quilts/blankets and winter clothing. Apart from this, there are many kind-hearted anonymous city residents who will also come visit A-Long, but almost no one has brought up the problem of raising A-Long. A-Long says often there are people who will give him money, but he doesn’t want to use [that money], saving it up instead. “What he needs is not only material help,” says one of the staff workers.

AIDS orphan A-Long by himself at home.

One person’s sadness

The “problem” that Ms. Liang refers to is not only because A-Long lacks the upbringing from two parents, but rather the more important reason that A-Long is an HIV carrier.

According to those in the know, before A-Long’s mother passed away last year, she was severely sick, her entire person becoming very gaunt and at the time everyone though she had contracted tuberculosis. Then not long after, A-Long’s father also had the same symptoms, a robust man very quickly becoming nothing more than a layer of skin. At this time, the rumors began in the village, that the two of them had contracted AIDS. This rumor was confirmed when A-Long’s father entered the hospital, and everyone also began to suspect A-Long. Despite all this, young A-Long did not understand, and he only knew that daddy had gotten the same sickness as mommy, and was soon going to die.

AIDS orphan A-Long pets his dog, Old Black.

According to the village committee staff worker, before A-Long’s father passed away, he had become so weak that he could not get out of bed, much less take care of A-Long. At that time, A-Long did not yet know how to cook by himself, and could only depend on his neighbors to give him some food to eat. A-Long’s father passed away at noon one day in July, and at the time, apart from A-Long watching over him by his side, no one else knew. Only until dinner-time when neighbor Miss Liang did not see A-Long did she discover that her old friend had already been dead for a long time.

Based on the recollection of the staff worker on the scene at the time, after receiving the news, they immediately rushed here [to A-Long’s home]. A-Long, who had been by his father’s side the entire time, came out upon hearing movement, and then calmly told him [the staff worker]: “Uncle, my daddy died, just like my mommy…” Little A-Long did not cry, his silence breaking everyone’s hearts.

Guangxi, China AIDS orphan A-Long.

Later, owning to some coordination issues, A-Long’s father’s remains were not sent to the funeral parlor until the second day. IN this time, A-Long continued to quietly stay by his father’s side, watching the remains the entire night. From that moment on, A-Long has never again talked about “daddy”.

As it is understood, there were people who wanted to adopt A-Long at the time, but then when everything was finally prepared, A-Long was examined and determined to be HIV-positive, which is to say that A-Long is an HIV carrier.

The kind-hearted people backed out, and the villagers became fearful.

Chinese AIDS orphan A-Long bathing himself.

A-Long doesn’t know what “AIDS” is, he only knows that his playmates now will not come near him; that he was about to enter first grade but has now been told to “stay home and await notice”; that when his hand was burned by hot water, the doctor did not dare treat the wound; even that his grandmother, the only person he could count on, also isn’t willing to live with him. The only one to be with him as always was Old Black.

Almost overnight, A-Long grew up a lot. Even though his family has met misfortune after misfortune, A-Long has not shed any tears. Only 6-years-old, he has learned how to cook and do the laundry, has learned how to do things according to the time of day, has learned how to read and write by himself, and has learned how to live on alone.

A-Long studying by himself at home.

One person’s happiness

When facing strangers coming to visit, at first A-Long was a little shy, but as a child, he very quickly became excited, striking poses for this reporter’s camera. Excitedly, he even performed some “Chinese kungfu”. It is hard to believe that A-Long, so innocent and lively, is someone who has lost both parents, and an orphan that lives alone.

A-Long doesn’t actually believe that there is anything bad about living alone, because he has “Old Black”.

AIDS orphan A-Long playing with his loyal dog and only companion.

“Old Black” is a black-colored female mutt that A-Long has raised for many years. Ever since A-Long became aware, “Old Black” has been at his side, and remains to this day as A-Long’s closest companion. At night when A-Long goes to sleep, he never closes the door because “Old Black” sometimes will sleep with him in the house and sometimes sleeps at the door, guarding him. “Old Black” doesn’t like to bark and when facing strangers that suddenly appear she even somewhat shyly hides in the house. However, as long as A-Long calls “Old Black”, she will immediately run to his side, and affectionately run circles around him. A-Long holds up “Old Black’s two front legs, his head near her’s, and smiles and laughs happily. A human and a dog cannot talk with each other, but they also need not talk with each other.

AIDS orphan A-Long kicks a ball by himself.

A 6-year-old little boy should have many playmates with whom to get into trouble with, but A-Long doesn’t. This reporter asked A-Long what friends he normally plays with? He was quiet for a long time before quietly saying that there was a little kid surnamed Liang that occasionally will come and play with him, but that none of his previous schoolmates will play with him anymore. A-Long also doesn’t want to go out and play with the village children, because he is not familiar with them. Even though he says this, A-Long still stares at the road outside [his home], his expression sad.

The child surnamed Liang is Miss Liang’s relative. She told this reporter that it was her family who does not allow her to come play with A-Long, because they are afraid of “an accident happening”. “Other little children probably also are afraid of this”.

AIDS orphan A-Long lighting a fire by himself to prepare his dinner.

A one person dinner

When the sky turned dark, A-Long started to prepare dinner.

“You know how to cook by yourself?” A-Long nodded his head, and even raised his left hand to show this reporter. On his left hand between the thumb and index finger was a very large scab, shocking on such a small little hand. A-Long however was nonchalant, saying that he had accidentally burned himself a few days ago when cooking, but now it is almost healed.

“Did you go to the hospital to have it looked at?” A-Long did not respond. The staff worker that had accompanied this reporter helplessly related: “When he was injured, no one knew. It was only the day after that someone took him to the clinic after finding out, but they weren’t willing to tend to it, so all we could do was dab some Merbromin…”

AIDS orphan A-Long shows a scab and scar where he burned himself while cooking.

At this time, A-Long was busy in the “kitchen”, putting rice in the aluminum pot, pouring in water. This reporter reminded him: “That’s too much water, right? You’ll be making rice porridge this way!” He didn’t make a sound, and placed the pot on the “stove”. The speed at which A-Long started a fire was amazing, snapping a few dry twigs and stuffing them under the pot, then lighting some waste paper and stuffing it in, and within a few seconds, the dry twigs were alight.

After over 10 minutes, the rice was almost done. A-Long opened the lid and threw in several cabbage hearts. The extra water earlier was just enough to cook the cabbage hearts. Very quickly, dinner was ready. Plain rice mixed with some cabbage hearts, no oil nor salt, much less any other condiments, yet A-Long bite after bite still ate with relish. He said that it was too much for one person to finish, that the leftovers are for “Old Black” to eat.

AIDS orphan A-Long shows his pot of plain white rice and vegetables that he cooked himself for his dinner.

Even though there is no oil nor salt, for A-Long, being able to have dinner is already a very blessed thing. Recently, A-Long had just received 20kg of rice and 5kg of noodles from a kind-hearted person, which is enough for him to eat for some time. However, when he is out of food, he can only rely on neighbor Miss Liang’s family for support. Liang was A-Long’s father’s old friend, three years ago opening a cement brick site nearby, and the people A-Long sees the most are Miss Liang’s family.

“Ever since his daddy passed away, A-Long himself has not left this yard. There have been kind-hearted people who have come and given money, and we tell him to go out and buy some thing to eat, but he isn’t willing to go. Sometimes he will look around at our door/entrance, and we guess that he is out of food, so we will have him bring a bowl over, and fill a bowl of rice and vegetables, as well as give him a few apples that we normally buy,” Liang said.

AIDS orphan in China: A-Long.

Comments from QQ:

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腾讯广州市网友:

I am thoroughly saddened, what can a six-year-old child do? Seeing A-Long, I think we really should grow up~

腾讯三明市网友:

It is not his fault that he is an HIV carrier [HIV-positive]; He can’t be excluded just because he is an HIV carrier; What he needs is not just material help; What he needs more of is spiritual sympathy/psychological appreciation; Kind-hearted people please help him!! Wish him good luck.

腾讯网友:

What do I have to do to donate to him? I want to buy him a television…

腾讯网友:

Poor child! I earnestly request that our leaders save a meal’s worth of money or go to the sauna one less time and save him [A-Long] instead!

腾讯广西网友:

Why are many people so afraid of people with AIDS/HIV? They are people too. Daily contact will not result in transmission. Reading this I was very saddened, how can he be helped? As a person from Guangxi, I too have just become a mother, and hope to help him financially somehow…

腾讯网友:

I finished [reading] it with tears. It is too sad, can he be cured? Why can’t his grandmother live with him, he is her grandson! This is why people these days are too selfish now. I can only wish that everything will be safe and good for you [A-Long].

腾讯网友:

I cried! Only 6-years old!! You guys think, what were you doing when you were 6-years-old?

腾讯成都市网友:

6-year-old children are now attending kindergarten, growing up in the warm embrace of their parents,
but when I think of a 6-year-old child, washing clothes by himself, cooking by himself, eating only vegetables, living alone,
my heart is so saddened, how much suffering a 6-year-old little child has endured within!
I hope the local government department and government leaders will bring about a satisfactory resolution,
and also hope that people various places [of the country/world] can help this little child~
because this is truly too difficult [for the child]!

腾讯合肥市网友:

Dogs do not look down upon their masters for being poor, so having Old Black to give him company is a bit better than him being alone.

腾讯上海市网友:

I feel really bad, heaven/God truly isn’t fair, allowing some corrupt officials to live free and unrestrained lives, yet not allowing those people who deserve help get the good fortune/luck they deserve. Why is it that bad children have such good living environments, yet understanding/mature good children have such bitter lives?

An update was later added to the QQ photo story:

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Latest update: There is already a kind-hearted couple planning to adopt A-Long and give him a warm home. “Guangxi 6-year-old AIDS orphan follow-up: Kind-hearted couple moved, willing to adopt

2011 February 17 UPDATE:

We have received a lot of emails from around the world asking for more information about A-Long and how he can be helped. We did a quick online search to find some updates to his story:

  • A netizen posted that you can donated to A-Long by contacting the Guanxi province Liuzhou City Red Cross  at telephone numbers: 0772-2627199 or 0772-2630233. You need to specify that your donation is for A-Long specifically.
  • However, we do not recommend that you donate. Many Chinese netizens have already donated a lot of money and material assistance.
  • It has also been reported that the government is giving both A-Long’s grandmother and A-Long himself each 1200 RMB financial assistance per year.
  • Netizens have also apparently pooled 20k RMB to help A-Long build a new house where he lives. However, apparently the chengguan have stopped them.
  • Local parents are still against A-Long attending school with their children.

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.