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Listening ear

By Huang Zhiling  (China Daily)

08:15, June 14, 2012

Cao Wenying, who is paralyzed and has weak hands, answers a call with her mother Liu Suyun's help. Photos by Huang Zhiling / China Daily

Cao Wenying, who has been paralyzed since she was 4 months old, turns her hopelessness into strength to help others in need through a life hotline. She tells Huang Zhiling her story in Chengdu.

Cao Wenying almost ended her life at 20. She was paralyzed at 4 months old because of polio. At 20, a doctor confirmed that she would never be cured of her physical disability. She felt hopeless. But today, at 50, she runs a life hotline, like the Befrienders, at her home in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, to encourage those in need.

"Everyday, I receive between 20 and 50 calls. Some would even call late at night and disturb my husband's sleep," Cao says.

Callers approach her with all kinds of problems - from men who want to commit suicide because their girlfriends left them to college students, who hate studying because they don't think they can find jobs after graduation.

"Once, I received a call from a rural woman who wanted to die because of poverty and another call from a 70-year-old professor at Sichuan University who felt hopeless because he had no family and was desperately lonely," she says.

Since the hotline started operation, Cao has received more than 10,000 calls.

Sometimes she receives so many calls day and night that she doesn't get any break in between.

Her parents, both 85, would relieve her commitment during the day, and her husband Yao Shuangquan, who works as a traffic assistant during the day, would help her during the nights.

Born in Luzhou, Sichuan province, Cao and her sister Cao Wenjun, who also contracted polio and became paralyzed at age 1, never went to school.

A retired teacher from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region taught them pinyin for 20 days.

"Thanks to pinyin and a Chinese dictionary, my younger sister and I self-studied from primary school through college," Cao says.

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