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Children leave for new life, future
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08:26, May 27, 2008

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· 8.0 Richter scale earthquake hits SW China
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Ling Ling from Luoshui town, Shifang, one of the worst-hit areas of the May 12 earthquake, celebrated her 11th birthday yesterday, two weeks after her mother's death in the quake.

She was greeted by dozens of children, some orphaned by the earthquake, and volunteers.

Ling Ling made a wish when blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. "I hope our school which was damaged in the earthquake can be repaired as soon as possible," she said.

The girl who was having a difficult time holding back the tears remembering her mother, broke into a smile when some of the children smeared cake on her face.

Along with 40 orphans in Shifang, Ling Ling later left for Lijiang, Yunnan province, to live and study, organized by the All-China Women's Federation.

Her father, injured and under treatment in Sichuan, decided to send Ling Ling to the Lijiang Orphan School "so that she could have a better life and future".

Ling Ling had been living in a crowded tent for the past a few days.

"I want to go to school to study," she said. He favorite subjects are music and art.

"I will visit my father during school holidays," she said.

Xiao Wen, an 8-year-old boy, was also one of those that left for Lijiang yesterday.

"My father is dead and my mother is missing," he said.

He witnessed his father's death and has been waiting for days for news about his mother.

When the earthquake struck, Xiao was playing alone in front of his home in Shifang.

His house collapsed burying his father. His mother was not at home at the time and there has been no news of her.

The once cheerful and talkative boy has become very reclusive. He stares blankly for hours at people working around him.

He did, however, up cheer up yesterday when meeting a group of children of his own age and who had been through a similar experience. He began to talk.

This was a great relief to his grandfather. He said he hoped Xiao will settle down at the Lijiang school.

The school is home to more than 460 orphans. It was set up in 1999 with funds from the government and private donations.

Most are from Yunnan and lost their parents in two earthquakes, 1996 and 1998.

"Our school is one of the best places for the Sichuan orphans to live and to study," Ling Feng, director of the Chinese Orphan Relief Fund, said.

"Children who have suffered the same bitter experience can learn from each other," Ling said. She is also a neurosurgeon at the Beijing Xuanwu Hospital.

"Bordering Sichuan, Lijiang has a similar natural environment and culture," she said.

"Orphaned children sometimes show more strength than normal children, and are not as overwhelmed by fear or sadness as we think," Hu Manli, a teacher at the Lijiang school, said.

"But they have suffered great mental trauma, and this can last for a very long time, sometimes throughout life."

When volunteers gave the children paper to draw on, some painted empty houses.

"We need to let them feel our love," Hu said.

Source: China Daily

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