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A family in Liupanshui, Guizhou province, poses for a group photo. Wang Bangbi"s team has taken more than 5,000 family photos for poor villagers in Guizhou since 2012. LONG DAIBING/CHINA DAILY

Charity project captures life in the Guizhou countryside

Wang Bangbi, 30, and his classmates have taken more than 5,000 family photos for free in poor villages in Guizhou province since 2012 in the hope of giving those people a memorable experience.

With his team, composed of photography majors from Guizhou Normal University, Wang has visited 16 remote villages in the past five years, taking photos of poor families. For many villagers, it was the first time they had had their photo taken.

Wang is from an impoverished family himself-he was the last one in his class to buy a camera due to financial constraints.

"In 2009, my mom used money that was supposed to be for buying her medicine to buy me a camera worth 12,000 yuan ($1,750)," he said. "However, I will never have the chance to take a family photo for my family because my mom died two months after she bought me the camera.

"It was so upsetting for me, and it is what gave me the idea of taking pictures for poor families like mine."

In July 2012, Wang contacted several students, who supported his idea and collected 3,300 yuan by working part-time jobs.

They spent the money on paper, ink and other materials. Then, they went to the villages of Zhongzhai and Duoque in Guizhou"s Liupanshui city, carrying camera equipment, tents and food rations.

A member of Wang"s team shows his photos to two sisters.WEN SHUANG/CHINA DAILY

"In the beginning, nobody believed us," Wang said. "We showed the village committee an introduction letter from our university, and it wasn"t until we gave some young villagers photos that we took of them that people believed we were doing it for free."

On the second day, villagers showed up wearing their best clothes, waiting in a line and hoping to have their first-ever picture taken.

That was the 11-member team"s first charity trip. They walked for three hours in the mountains to reach the area, lived in tents and ate meals of compressed biscuits.

"We didn"t want to disrupt the lives of locals," Wang said.

Soon, many more students at the university wanted to join the team.

"Every member of the team can gain something from the charity trips, especially when they witness the sincerity in the smiles of the villagers when they see their photos," Wang said.

The original 11 members have all graduated, but they still participate in the charity shoots when they have time, especially Wang.

He said he hopes the project continues forever, passing on the love from one generation to the next.

Wen Shuang, a junior student at the university, is now in charge of the team, taking over Wang"s role.

"At present, all photography majors at Guizhou Normal University are members of the team," Wen said.

Two children show off their smiles for the volunteer photographers.SUN CUIPING/CHINA DAILY

They take turns to go on charity shoots. As the project has grown, companies have contacted the team enquiring about sponsorship, but Wen said they insist on raising the necessary funding through working part-time jobs.

Sun Cuiping, a student from Jiangsu province, said she had never seen mountains like the ones in Guizhou back in her hometown. She used to fall over often when she walked to remote villages in the mountains, but now she is used to the rocky terrain.

"During a recent trip in Zhenning county, an old man died the day after we took photos of him, which means we captured the precious last moments of his life," Sun said.

"Love is precious. You should cherish the loving relationships you have with your family members," she added. "I"m doing something meaningful and I will continue to do it."

Contact the writers at [email protected]

Dong Xianwu contributed to this story.