SHIJIAZHUANG, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Firefighters in Shexian County, north China's Hebei Province, received over 1,000 paper cranes ahead of this year's National Fire Prevention Day, which fell on Wednesday.
Notes written on the cranes revealed the well-wishers to be dozens of children from a mountainous school. They folded these gifts to express their gratitude to the firefighters, who have volunteered to support the education of children from the school for more than two decades.
"You are my role model, and I hope I can be a hero like you to save people in danger after I grow up," a note on a pink paper crane reads.
This caring relationship began in 1994, when the Shexian County firefighters heard that a student who had an excellent academic performance faced difficulties continuing his studies, as his family was barely able to make ends meet.
Although living on meager incomes in the 1990s, some firefighters donated half of their wages to support the child.
As they helped students at Guanghua High School, which formerly also encompassed primary and middle schools, with their physical training before the start of each semester, they noticed many came from impoverished households.
They all agreed to provide financial assistance to students at the school every year, donating in the fire station's name.
The tradition has been carried on for 28 years, despite new firefighters being recruited and elder firefighters retiring. The station's support for the children has never ceased.
Many students have benefited from their support, with over 130 admitted to colleges, 13 joining the army, 20 becoming teachers after graduation, and some becoming firefighters.
Inspired by the firefighters, the students also learned to pay it back to society. "Two decades ago, I almost dropped out as my family could barely support my education," said Li Tianbao, who has become a teacher at his old school. "It was the firefighters who helped me out."
Li often told his students that "no man is an island, and we should pass on kindness and love with generosity."
Over 500 students from impoverished families have been sponsored by the firefighters in Shexian, with donations totaling over 100,000 yuan (13,790 U.S. dollars), and nearly 4,000 books provided.
The school has grown from three classrooms with three teachers to a well-known local school covering 112,000 square meters.
"After all these years, I can still clearly remember their looks and names, because the firefighters are like family," said Zhao Jiao'e, who has been the principal of the school since 1994. ■