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Seven years ago, a homeless man in China was scavenging in a garbage bin when he found something that would change his life forever -- a tiny baby girl! He was so overcome with emotion that he decided to raise her as his own child. 50-year-old Xiong Jianguo now lives under a bridge in Nanchang City with his seven-year-old adopted daughter, whom he named Yanyan.
"I guess she was one of those children that was born to a family who didn't want a girl," said Xiong. "I had lifted the top of the rubbish bin and was looking to see if there are any plastic bottles I could sell to recycle, when I heard a baby. She was in a box in a blanket and I was absolutely stunned." The box, apparently, contained a single note: "Was born on October 15, 2007."
The baby looked so helpless that Xiong took her home; at the time, he lived with his wife in a tiny room. The couple bought a baby bottle to feed her, and that's when he knew that he wanted to look after her for as long as he could. "No matter how hard it is, I intend to make sure that I raise her until she is old enough to stand on her own two feet. I don't believe she would have had a good life in an orphanage," he said.
All the same, Xiong does worry that without a fixed address Yanyan doesn't have much of a chance to attend school. He's barely literate himself, but he's doing the best he can to teach her to read, write and do basic math along with the help of a few other homeless friends. The little cutie can apparently recite poems and sagas as well, greatly entertaining her neighbors under the bridge. "She is really bright, she learns very quickly," said Xiong.
Life hasn't exactly been kind to Xiong -- his parents died when he was very young, so he was only educated until the third grade. His wife left him in 2012, and the house where they lived was demolished as well. So he was forced to move to a spot under the bridge, along with Yanyan. But in spite of all his hardships, he doesn't intend to give up on Yanyan.
Even though life on the streets is tough, Xiong says that Yanyan never complains. They barely manage to make ends meet and often, there isn't even enough food to eat. Once, a reporter who visited her noticed that she had mosquito bites all over her skin. At age four, the child fell dangerously ill, but recovered quickly and has been healthy ever since.
Yanyan is heart-warmingly positive in the way she perceives her life. "Whatever happens, every year on my birthday, which is the day he found me, I get a small cake and a trip to a photo studio so that my picture can be taken when I get my birthday present, and so I can have a memory of the day," she said. "As long as it is my father's place, I'm home."
Of course, Yanyan isn't officially adopted. Because Xiong doesn't meet the required conditions for adoption, the police cannot handle their accounts. Even the Nanchang City Civil Affairs Bureau hasn't been of much help in the matter.
For now, father-and-daughter duo have developed a special life of their own -- they earn a livelihood by recycling and in their spare time, they study books under the streetlight. Xiong hopes that someday, Yanyan will have a steady job and become a useful person to society. I do hope his dream comes true!