Chinese girl, 6, helps make ends meet with videos of her taking care of paralysed dad

Posting some 600 clips of her daily routine online has brought Jiajia’s family nearly US$600 a month for her father’s ongoing care

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 10:45pm

When six-year-old Tian Jiajia gets up in the morning, the first thing she does is massage her partially paralysed father’s numb limbs.

Then, using a home-made crane, she deftly hoists her father from his bed and transfers him to a nearby wheelchair. Moving with confidence and authority, the little girl helps her disabled dad brush his teeth and wash his face.

She completes the routine by giving him breakfast, before heading off to school.

Despite the intimacy of these scenes, they have hardly remained part of a struggling family’s private domain. All of Jiajia’s actions have been recorded in short videos and published on the Chinese live-streaming site Kuaishou. There, visitors can watch Jiajia tend to her father’s needs and make donations in support of his ongoing care.

Uploading more than 600 videos to the site over the past year and a half has brought Jiajia’s family an income of about 4,000 yuan (US$580) a month.

The little girl’s father, 39-year-old Tian Haicheng, is from the village of Baihe, in the northwestern Ningxia Hui autonomous region. He was paralysed in a car accident in 2016.

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A loader operator at a construction site, he was going to see his contractor to collect his wages when the car he was travelling in flipped over and landed in a ditch.

When Tian woke up in a hospital bed, doctors said he might not be able to ever stand up again. The accident had left him able to move only his neck and head, with partial movement in his arms.

But a few months later, Tian’s wife told him she needed to go back to her hometown in nearby Haiyuan for a few days. She left with their son, who is now 10, and never returned.

Tian’s parents are in their 60s. His father spends most of his time farming, while his mother has cataracts and cannot take on the role of primary carer, Tian said.

Despondent and frustrated, Tian once attempted to kill himself by drinking pesticide. But his daughter intervened at the critical moment and convinced him to abandon the suicide bid.

“It’s because of my daughter that I’m still alive,” he said.

To his surprise, his daughter started copying how her grandparents took care of her father. She proved such a quick study that she was just four years old when she started feeding him.

At an age when most children are satisfied simply by playing with toys, she was trying to help her incapacitated father roll over in bed.

Although Tian receives a monthly government subsidy of about 800 yuan, his medicine alone costs a few thousand yuan per month.

His money problems were becoming acute last year when a friend told Tian about using video live-streaming programmes as a way to make ends meet.

He decided to give it a shot, and – by explaining to her how to do it – Jiajia soon learned how to use a phone to post video records of their daily routine on Kuaishou, a photo-sharing app based in China.

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It is hard not to be impressed by the age-defying skills the child displays in the videos. In one, standing on a stool to reach over her father, Jiajia sets a bowl of noodles in front of him. She then straps a spoon to his hand with a rubber band to make it easier for him to grasp the utensil, and holds the bowl while he eats.

Her video uploads have brought Jiajia a following of 451,000 fans – many of whom are not shy about airing their thoughts in a comments section on the site.

“What a thoughtful and obedient girl!” one said. Many who have expressed sympathy for the family have also become donors.

Tian said some of the site’s users have asked whether he was trying to make money by selling misery.

He said it was never his intention to get rich and famous on the internet; in fact, he said, he only wanted a platform that would allow him to interact with people.

“To be honest, right now I’m living day by day,” he said. “I’m doing much better than a year ago, thanks to my parents and my daughter. I’m doing my best to only look forward.”