A group of college students from Yangzhou University have attracted national attention by going door-to-door, filling big sacks with recyclable bottles and old newspapers and using the money to help a poor Tibetan orphan.
The ten sophomores from the university's College of Bioscience and Biotechnology in east China's Jiangsu Province were amicably nicknamed "Sack Brothers" by netizens after their story spread on the Internet.
On weekends, Li Sheng and his classmates go door-to-door to gather plastic bottles, used books and newspapers from the university's dormitories.
"Hi, are there any empty bottles? We are picking them to help a boy in Tibet. Thank you."
The money they make gets sent to Tsering Gyatan, a student who lives with his 68-year-old grandmother in Lhasa, capital of southwest Tibet Autonomous Region. Every month, they live on just 500 yuan (78.45 U.S. dollars) that the grandmother earns from part-time jobs.
Li Sheng has always wanted to help poor Tibetan children, because he knows that some cash-strapped kids might have to drop out of school. When he learned that Tsering Gyatan was one of these kids, Li and his classmates, who are mostly from rural areas, decided to find a way to help.
Compared with donations and charity sales, Li believes recycling the waste is better, "as it not only provides a long-term financial supply, but also fulfills our social responsibility of protecting the environment," Li said.
However, the beginning was difficult. Zhuang Guochang said he felt embarrassed at first, but now carrying big sacks around campus does not bother him at all.
"I'm not embarrassed, because we earn money on our own," said Zhuang.
They made 600 yuan within the first 15 days after they started in early September, and have sent 500 yuan to Tsering Gyatan.
"We plan to send Tsering Gyatan 200 yuan every month from now on," said Li.
Their early success gave these students more confidence, and they are planning to collect waste in neighboring communities as well.
"I believe that we can gather more money to help more Tibetan children in the future," Li said.
The "Sack Brothers" encouraged other students to follow suit. Eleven female students from Li's class decided to communicate with the little boy frequently through letters or by phone to help him with his studies and encourage him to keep going.
Wang Yinyin, the head of the class youth league, called Tsering Gyatan's grandmother ahead of the National Day, which falls on Oct. 1.
"She told me that Tsering Gyatan is very fond of basketball right now and plays basketball with friends as soon as he finishes his homework," said Wang. "So we will send a new basketball to him next month."
Other students began to gather bottles and books that would have otherwise been thrown away.
"Moved by the 'Sack Brothers,' I began keeping all my beverage bottles for them," said Pan Zhonghua, a sophomore majoring in biological engineering. "I admire their big hearts."
The "Sack Brothers" will give paper cranes as souvenirs to students who pitch in, like Pan.
"The paper crane is our way of saying 'thank you,'" said Wang Yinyin.