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A 'police father' with 39 'left-behind' children

Updated: 2016-02-04 07:45
By Liu Kun and Zhou Lihua in Wuhan (China Daily)

A 'police father' with 39 'left-behind' children

From left: Liao Yifeng with left-behind children from the Gantang Primary School in Huangpi, Wuhan, in Hubei province. [Photos Provided to China Daily]

Family love room furnished with books for kids in toughest situations

Liao Yifeng, a police officer who works in a small and remote village of Huangpi in Wuhan, Hubei province, is a "father" to 39 "left-behind" children, whose parents are working far away from home and rarely spend time with them.

Although he seems young, 30-year-old Liao acts as an "old hand" in the Liuzhi police station. He deals with all kinds of problems among villagers, for example processing household registrations and investigating crime clues as well as solving problems between neighborhoods.

But it is his other identity as a father to left-behind children that is most recognized.

Wan Tianle, an 8-year-old boy, was the first to call Liao "Dad".

Wan's parents divorced when he was only 6 months old. He never saw his mother again and his father later disappeared after getting into debt. His bedridden grandfather had intermittent mental illness, and the family depended on his grandmother's meager subsistence allowance. Upon learning the boy couldn't even afford the 100 yuan ($15) monthly school living fees, Liao felt upset and began going to their home every month, bringing 100 yuan and a pot of oil.

During last year's Mid-Autumn Festival, Liao carried a kilogram of meat and pig's feet. After dinner, the boy put his arm around Liao's neck and ask sweetly: "Uncle Liao, can I call you daddy?" Liao was deeply moved and tears welled up in his eyes. He made up his mind to be a good "father".

With a 2-year-old son of his own, Liao said, he knows how important a father's love is to a child. Afterward, the demand for "my police father" traveled fast.

In the Gantang Primary School alone, there are 407 left-behind children among the 689 students. With the help of teachers, Liao makes detailed notes about each child's home conditions and pays more attention to the 39 children in the toughest situations.

Liao has built a special room named "family love room" in the police station, which is furnished with children's books, tables and desks for doing homework.

Liao enjoys helping these left-behind children with their homework and teaching them about safety in his spare time. Sometimes they have simple birthday parties as well.

Moreover, a computer in the "family love room" plays an indispensable role because it offers a precious opportunity for Liao to help children whose parents are working far away to chat with them online. At the same time, parents can watch their children's daily lives and studies.

A 'police father' with 39 'left-behind' children

From left: Liao Yifeng with left-behind children from the Gantang Primary School in Huangpi, Wuhan, in Hubei province. [Photos Provided to China Daily]

In July, Liao saw a child GPS watch on TV and immediately got the idea to let children wear the smartwatches so he could ensure their safety.

In 2013, when an unattended left-behind boy drowned in a pond, Liao said, "I never forgot the mother crying and fainting on the ground after she traveled thousands of kilometers back to her boy."

"I wonder where each kid is when they go out! This high-tech invention may help to minimize some avoidable tragedies."

Chen Zhikun, director of the Liuzhi police station, was very supportive about giving the 39 children such watches. However, that would cost more than 10,000 yuan ($1,520) - not an insignificant sum for a remote rural police station. Chen highly praised the move and encouraged the staff members to donate their overtime pay. Afterward, Chen decided to spend 8,000 yuan to buy 20 smartwatches for some of the poorest children first.

This kind of smartwatch can be connected to a mobile phone app so that the children can be pinpointed and can call for help if they run into difficulties.

Liao said: "My only wish is to keep each child safe. Those kids who get smartwatches are very proud and often call me in their spare time."

"Police Dad" can finally keep watch wherever a child is.

Liao invited many left-behind children to play in the "family love room" on Children's Day. He asked them to write their dreams on sticky notes and paste their wishes onto the wall:

"My wish is to become a soldier, to study at a good university ... "

"My desire is to be a musician, let others be enchanted with the sweet music ... "

Liao said: "I cannot ensure each kid's happiness, but I will keep this 'Wish Wall' so they can recall their childhood dreams when they grow up and keep a bit of love and warmth in their hearts."

Contact the writers at liukun@chinadaily.com.cn

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