Business tycoon follows heart to give back to society

By Sun Ruisheng in Taiyuan and Li Yang (China Daily)

Updated: 2021-07-23


Students of the Fanshi Experimental School give Sha Wanli a warm reception. [Photo/China Daily]

Sha Wanli, manager of a construction company and one of the first private business owners in Fanshi county, Shanxi province, in the early 1980s, thinks that donating money to build schools is the best way help people change their fate.

A landlocked area encircled by the Taihang Mountains, Fanshi was listed as a national poverty-stricken county until two years ago. Sha, 67, feels happy that all the 266,000 Fanshi residents have now been lifted out of poverty thanks to their hard work over the generations.

He has done his part, too. In the past forty years, Sha has built a road to the Fanshi Experimental School, renovated and expanded more than 30 primary schools, and founded nine primary schools to ensure that all children in the county have access to basic education close to home.

Born into a poverty-stricken farming family, Sha dropped out of school at 16 because his family could not afford the 5 yuan tuition fee. He worked as a bricklayer and coal miner before founding his own construction company in 1983. He said that his hard early life encouraged his turn to charitable work after he'd made his fortune.

Since 1995, he has supported more than 500 college students, and nearly 5,000 middle and primary school students, and has donated a total of 28.3 million yuan ($4.36 million) to education and poverty alleviation efforts.

Sha leads a simple, austere life. He attributes his success to favorable national policies. "As a beneficiary of the times, I have an obligation to pay back people and society and help more people pursue their dreams," he said.

Over the years, he has not only created hundreds of jobs, but has also helped the government lift more than 3,000 impoverished families in 11 villages out of poverty.

In 2016, Sha approached the county government about helping its poverty-stricken villages.

He built roads and clinics, upgraded and expanded irrigation systems, and encouraged villagers to plant commercial crops.

He said he would remain hardworking and plain living, and maintain a loving heart and contribute to society, for the rest of his life.

In 2016, Sha was awarded the honorary title of National-level Outstanding Communist Party of China Member, and this year, he won the honorary title of Outstanding Individual in National Poverty Alleviation.