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Shenzhen vagrants' angel just out to help
Latest Updated by 2007-02-06 09:49:55
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No city in China has as many success stories to tell as Shenzhen. People come from all over to realize dreams, make names for themselves or maybe just to find jobs.

But so many of them don't. And it's the vagrants of this southern city who break Zhao Yaoju's heart. To him, it's an issue of dignity, of self-respect, that he wants to help restore.

Zhao, 34, is a migrant worker himself from Henan Province, and in seven years of riding on his motorcycle, he has helped more than 100 vagrants find the way home.

"To bring all the vagrants back home is my biggest dream," Zhao said. "I feel fulfilled every time I see they are finally reunited with their families."

Making a living offering a kind of motorcycle service, Zhao always watches for people wandering on the street or living under a bridge.

"They are poor and miserable," Zhao said. "Some people think they're nuts, and in their own eyes, they are no better than a pet, which makes me very sad.

"Vagrants also have dignity and they have rights like everybody else to live normal lives."

Zhao keeps a notepad containing names, addresses and phone numbers of the vagrants who went home safely with his help.

Victims

"Some of them were victims of robbery or theft or were deceived, and others simply lost their way home. They didn't know how to, or did not dare to, seek help from public security bureaus and other assistance and protection organs," Zhao explained.

"So they were more miserable than professional beggars or vagabonds, and they needed more help from us."

Zhao knows what it's like; he was a vagrant himself.

"Once they are helped out by people, they will always turn their lives around," he said. "I hope that more people can extend their love and care toward vagrants."

Zhao's dream is echoed by the whole city. Since August 1, 2003, Shenzhen's vagrant assistance centers have helped more than 7,000 vagrants either get settled or go home.

Current official figures place the number of vagrants at more than 2,000.

"We will further step up our efforts to help vagrants by providing employment opportunities to them," said a recent report prepared by the Shenzhen civil affairs bureau.

The center in Bao'an has been looking for jobs for them since last April.

"We are trying to make the center not only an assistance and protection shelter, but also a medium through which vagrants can find a living means to support themselves," Bao'an center director Xing Fuhe said.

Li Chengwei, professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said: "Vagrants should be admitted into the mainstream of society instead of being isolated. It is good to see Shenzhen moving proactively to help those vagrants in need."

Editor: Yan

By: Jonathan Yeung Source: China Daily Website
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