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Lei Feng's African brother

Updated: 2013-08-05 23:59
By Liu Kun in Wuhan and Han Bingbin in Beijing ( China Daily)

He had never heard of China's icon of selflessness before he arrived in the country, but this unusual young man from Nigeria is carrying on the good work of China's hero soldier. Liu Kun in Wuhan and Han Bingbin in Beijing report on a dedicated charity worker.

Adam Musa's week begins with a crowded two-hour bus ride for a flag-raising ceremony at Chunmiao Primary School, a compound of old classrooms for the children of migrant workers on the outskirts of Wuhan, the capital of Central China's Hubei province.

An hour later, the young Nigerian steps in front of a room full of expectant students, some of whom recently organized a dance exhibition for their foreign teacher that moved him to tears.

Lei Feng's African brother

Nigerian Adam Musa donates blood to Wuhan Blood Center. [ photos provided / China Daily]

The dance represented the spirit of Lei Feng (1940-1962), a soldier idolized across China for his selfless and modest actions. It was especially meaningful to Musa because the students call him "foreign Lei Feng".

"I know Lei Feng, he is a good man. Everyone should learn from Lei Feng," he says.

Born to a family of diplomats in 1985, the second of nine children and the eldest son, Musa grew up with the burden of great expectations, not least that he would become an ambassador like his father, who was Nigeria's representative in Canada from 2007.

In 2008, Musa was picked by Nigeria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to study in China for a master's degree in sociology. With ambitions to join the foreign service, he then went on to study for a doctorate in international relations at Central China Normal University.

Musa's bond with China was fostered after so many years in the country and it became even stronger in January this year when he won 250,000 yuan ($40,700) in Community Heroes, a televised competition aired by China Central Television, in which people competed to win money for charity.

Musa's prize money will soon be used to build a computer classroom and multi-media lecture hall at the Chunmiao school.

It's not the first time Musa has raised money for the school. In March, 2012 he set up "Adam's special scholarship" there, using 5,000 yuan he won on a similar game show on Hubei TV.

"I just want to give these children hope. Hope is the most important thing in our lives. I don't want them to give up their hope," he says.

While he gives money to the school, Musa himself leads a frugal life, according to his friends, eating simple food in the school canteen, wearing cheap clothes and rarely taking a taxi.

"He has always been a very honest, simple, happy and obliging person since I got to know him a long time ago," says Liang Wei, deputy secretary of the Youth League Committee at Central China Normal University.

Musa recalls his involvement with the school began in May 2010, again during a television show. During the show he found children from the Chunmiao school warmed to him, calling him "black uncle".

The headmaster then invited him to visit the students and some time later, after a long bus ride, the hopeful young man found himself touring the school grounds.

Musa was pleased to be there, but shocked by the badly equipped classrooms and poverty of the surrounding village. Eager to help, he offered to teach English.

It was a tough job to begin with because the students' standard was low, but Musa broke through any barriers that may have existed by making his lessons the liveliest in the school, with a mixture of speaking, gesticulating and drawing.

"I liked him at first sight," says Chen Ying, the school's head. "He made eye contact with the children very quickly."

Musa's teaching methods proved effective and now he often has to hide in his office before classes begin to escape groups of pupils wanting to talk to him. They also text him regularly asking about his life and send him greetings cards and boxes of sweets.

Many schools in the area do not have a foreign teacher and Musa believes the students at Chunmiao feel privileged and proud that they do.

Musa's charity work started in Nigeria, where as an undergraduate he taught at a school for children whose parents had moved away for work.

Musa says the motivation for that and for his work at Chunmiao is interest and love.

Last March, Musa was among 42 foreign students who organized a "foreigner Lei Feng volunteers team" with the aim of taking "action for public good". Those actions have included recruiting 105 foreign students to donate blood to Wuhan Blood Center and visiting nursing homes and orphanages.

Last year Musa was rewarded for his good deeds with the 2011 Hubei Province Man of the Year Special Award and this year he received the 2012 10 Stars of Social Work award.

His charity work has made him something of a celebrity in both China and Nigeria, but according to Musa he is just trying to follow in his father's footsteps, "to be a good man, do good things and stay with good people".

Contact the writers through hanbingbin@chinadaily.com.cn.

Zhou Lihua in Wuhan contributed to this story.

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