In Yaopu village, Shanxi Province, Li Yanping is known as a one-person orphanages who has taken care of 80 abandoned children over a period of 22 years.
49-year-old Li Yanping lives in a modest 40-square-meter country house and barely survives on a meager income, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking care of dozens of abandoned children, most of them mentally or psychically handicapped. Born in 1964, in Mu village, Li married at the young age of 21 and soon had her first baby. Her story as a modern-day Mother Theresa began in 1989, shortly after her natural child was born, when her husband found a toddler abandoned on their doorstep. After examining it more carefully, the two realized the child suffered from deformities, but they took it in, fed it and took care of it, despite their financial shortcomings. But they could only take care of two babies for a while, and when milk shortages and lack of money became too much too handle, they made a desperate decision to give their own healthy son up for adoption. They figured someone would adopt a healthy baby, whereas the disabled child had almost no chance of survival.
There were some who criticized Li Yanping’s decision, but many others in the village admired the woman for her kindheartedness and sacrifice. From that moment on, she and her husband found numerous other children abandoned on their doorstep and always took them even though they were trying to make ends meet when it was just the two of them. Seven years ago, Li received a terrible blow when her husband passed away, leaving her to take care of 13 children who relied greatly on her to be fed, bathed and even taken to the toilet. Things were rough before, but with only half the income they became almost impossible for the heroic mother. Still she wouldn’t give up on her children and with help from fellow villagers and occasional grants from Chinese authorities, Li Yanping managed to raise all of her adopted kids.
Throughout the 22 years since she found that first baby on her doorstep, Li Yanping has taken care of 80 children, 13 of which are still living with her today.The most valuable things in her modest home are a 29-inch TV and a small refrigerator, and she only spends 20 yuan ($3) on meat each month, but manages to support her children, and says she would sacrifice anything to help them into college or a PhD program. Two of her phisically healthy kids are currently attending high-school at a local vocational school.