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Children in China

A year later, China’s ‘Ice Boy’ Wang Fuman has a new home, warmer school and his mum back

  • He is known on the internet as ‘Ice Boy’, but Wang Fuman says he just wants to be treated as a normal boy and dreams of being a police officer
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 12:22am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 8:22am

Many things about Wang Fuman’s life have changed since he became an international sensation a year ago.

Then, he was an eight-year-old who had to walk for an hour in a thin jacket from his grandmother’s mud hut to his freezing cold, poorly-resourced school. His father was working far away, and his mother had deserted the family.

His teacher posted a photo of him arriving at school with his head covered in icicles, a photo that quickly spread on social media and earned him the internet name “Ice Boy” or “Snowflake Boy”.

Today, Fuman has a new house, a warmer school and mum back at home.

Despite the welcome change in circumstances the moniker brought him, Fuman still likes to be known by his real name.

“‘Snowflake Boy’ is just a nickname,” the 9-year-old said in a video shared this week by a newspaper in Kunming city.

“In my hometown, my classmates treat me as an ordinary person, and I think of myself as an ordinary person. If I were treated as a star, I would feel awkward.”

Fuman was one of the 61 million “left-behind” children, kids who are left in their poor hometowns while their parents seek work in the big cities.

Wang Fuman’s Lunar New Year wish: ‘Come back to scold me, mum’

Fuman and his older sister, Fumei, lived with their grandmother in a mountainous region of Yunnan province, in south-western China.

To get to school, he had to walk three miles in temperatures as low as 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-9C). Once he got there, the school had no heating and little in the way of educational resources.

That all changed after that photo that his teacher posted showing Fuman with ruddy, wind-chapped cheeks and frozen hair. His hands were also chapped and covered in chilblains.

After the “snowflake boy” photo went viral, Ludian County received a deluge of donations and government aid. Local foundations launched a charity drive to help children from poor families stay warm in winter. They raised US$47,000 within a week.

His school, Zhuanshanbao Elementary, has been equipped with proper heating and new teaching facilities. It now has a science lab, an art room and a computer room, where students have access to digital textbooks. Clothes and sports equipment were also donated.

Each classroom has two heaters in it now, and as a result, Fuman does not have chilblains on his hands this year.

One of 60 million: life as a ‘left-behind’ child in China

Fuman’s father was given a job at a construction site in the neighbouring province of Kunming. He can earn almost US$600 a month there, and it is close enough to allow him to return home three times last year.

“Our lives will get better and better from now on,” his father, Wang Gangkui, told People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper. “Compared with the mud walls and muddy roads in the past, we are better sheltered from the wind and rain now.”

During the week, however, Fuman lives in the student dormitory, which has new thick quilts and mattresses for the 73 students who live there, and they are given medicine to prevent frostbite. The school cafeteria has also been upgraded.

“Our classroom is very warm now, I usually stay in the school so I do not have to go home every day,” the boy told China Daily this month. He said he wanted to study hard and become a police officer so he could “take down bad people in the world”.

Poor Chinese boy’s freezing trek to school touches hearts

Fuman is doing well at school, Vice-Principal Fu Heng told People’s Daily. “He is in the top three for mathematics and the top five overall,” he said. “He also has a good relationship with the other pupils.”

The Wang family now live in a small two-story house closer to school.

“Our old house was a bit dirty but the new house is clean,” he said. “In the old house, there were a lot of old memories because my grandfather built it. But in the new house, there are [new] memories because my dad built it.”

Better still, their mother, who had been working in restaurants in the east coast province of Zhejiang, also returned home in the middle of the year. “I think we are very lucky that mum could come back, [I am] very happy,” Wang’s sister, Fumei, says in the video.

Every weekend, they squeeze into her bed to sleep together, they said. “Mum has come back, our family is very happy,” Fuman said.

Better still, she cares about them more, he said. “If our clothes are dirty, she’ll wash them. When it is cold, she asks us take another quilt to school,” Fuman told the Kunming paper.

Chinese girl spends days in mum’s delivery van rather than be a left-behind child

His mother, Lu Dafeng, explained why she left in the first place. “I disliked his father because he was poor and disappointing, so I got angry, left and went to work in other places,” she said in the video. “But later I missed my children so I came back.”

But she might not stay for long. “This year, after Lunar New Year [in February], I will go and work on the construction site with his dad,” she said.

Lunar New Year is the biggest annual Chinese holiday. Many people return to their hometowns for the week.

“This year, [my wife] has come back home, so our family can have a lively happy New Year together,” Fuman’s father said in the video. He had even been able to buy a 99kg (218lb) pig for the New Year feast.

Fuman’s improved fortunes have warmed online hearts in China, with the hashtag “one year of snowflake boy” on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, attracting more than 77 million times.

“What a warm-hearted ending, may every child be treated gently by the world,” wrote one Weibo user with the screenname Hangxiaoye.