Volunteer cooks help ease life for lonely 12-year-old girl in China

A 12-year-old girl who lives alone in Wuhan, Hubei province, gets free meals every day cooked by volunteers in the community who have shown a neighborly spirit.

The girl, nicknamed Tiantian, is a middle school student in the Changjiangzidu residential community in Wuchang district. Her father died years ago and her mother has been hospitalised for mental illness.

Community workers found Tiantian is often alone at home and sometimes eats at street restaurants.

One night in mid-October, Chen Lijuan, who works in the community, visited Tiantian’s home and found the refrigerator was empty and kitchen utensils were clean.

The girl said she often eats instant noodles or snacks after school, as she doesn’t have time for cooking and doesn’t want to trouble others.


Chen proposed in a WeChat group that members of the community volunteer to cook dinners for Tiantian.

Some 60 volunteers agreed, even though none of them knew Tiantian, Chen said, adding that people take turns cooking.

Since mid-October, neighbors have brought home-cooked meals to the community office to wait for Tiantian. They will also share photos of the meals online, to make sure no dish is the same in a week.

Zhou Ling, one of the volunteers, said she met Tiantian in person, and asked what’s her preference for dinner, such as “no fish” or “not too spicy”. Cheng Liwei, another volunteer learned that Tiantian likes steamed pork, and agreed to prepare it that day.

“I am full every night, and I think I’m gaining weight,” Tiantian said.

Chen said the volunteers will continue for as long as Tiantian needs them.

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