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Published: June 19th 2008
The night train from Pingyao to Xi'an kept thudding to a halt and the AC didn't work, I was still grieving the death of my second camera and did not sleep at all. The train arrived three hours late into Xi'an and within seconds of exiting the station a man ran up to us to asked if we had anywhere to stay, of course we didn't, so he gave us two options of youth hostel, one right by the station which my new Shamaness self felt no vibes, so we chose the one furthest away in South Gate which was more like a three star hotel with a touch of Philip Stark and costs $$$ per night to match, what happened to the old school of youth hostelling.
That night I grabbed some local magazines from the bar in the hostel, one story jumped from the magazine page about A Soup Kitchen. The moving story was about a man from Preston in Lancashire England, his name is Tony Day. He had been a very successful businessman specialising in the world of finances and he had a vision via a mediation retreat where he could no longer see the point of
continuing with his former English lifestyle. He soon sold everything he owned from his business down to his last Lancashire brass buttons, he got rid of the lot. At the time he didn't really know where he was going so he started with Paris France and he volunteered at a soup kitchen there, but after six months his feet became itchy. Tony is a big thinker so his thoughts directed him to assisting with big time poverty aid, so where else to start this quest than India! But destiny had other plans for him when the sticky fingers of fate ushered him on to a Trans- Siberian train from Eastern Europe to Beijing China which by passed India altogether. His plan was to stay in Beijing for a couple of weeks, go to Xi'an see the Terracotta soldiers, then head off back to India, but again fate stepped in. He arrived in Xi'an and between visa renewals has stayed for three and half years.
I had been given two different and very opposite directions to get to the one Catholic Church in Xi'an which is on Wu Xing Jie Street. I found the right main road to start heading
Tony and a greatful friend
This picture makes me cry with happiness.
in the right direction. I found the Catholic Church. As I entered there were many men sitting on orange plastic chairs happily chatting to each other, there were piles of donated second hand shoes in one corner, a job was to match the shoes. One whole room full of second hand clothes, a trestle table that had pots of thick soup and bao zi steamed dumplings were handed out. The men were curious, they looked at me, I shook their hands which made them smile and relax. I introduced myself and Tony seemed pleased that I showed such a keen interest in his project, then the food van turned up and many helpers showed up after that, they had all developed an organised system, the volunteers were of Chinese origin from all walks of life who come weekly to offer their support.
Around the world the term 'Soup Kitchen' is not an alien concept, these places are necessary life lines to those who find themselves for whatever reason on the streets, but here in China they have never thought about doing this for their poor. Tony had introduced something so foreign to China that many Chinese questioned its authenticity
and his motives. Why would one man from England come all this way to personally feed Chinas homeless using his own cash? His actions clearly went against traditional Chinese culture and the government.
Tony was warned from the outset to be careful, as people did not understand what he was doing, but China is not alone in this problem, the world over has homelessness and poverty issues even on the affluent streets of central London. Over all good created good, he worked on and gave what he could, things started to happen such as the pastor of the local Catholic Church offered to build him a community room to base himself, until then he worked in the snow storms and blizzards or during the extreme heat of summer, to make it clear this charity is not based on any religion, anyone from any faith or background in need can come.
I was over whelmed when I went along to meet them all, so much so I went along a second night and offered my help. I was greeted with more handshakes and warm smiles and they all wanted their photos taken, no one spoke English but
we got along well. I have personally worked with real low life drop outs in North West London, when my Ambulance days took me to the scummiest doss houses, stinking refuges, run down shopping centres and dark back allies, where we were mostly called to 'man - dead/collapsed' usually from extreme intoxication.
This new Chinese drop in centre was very different; there are no boozy alcoholic's, no stench of urine or men pissing up against walls or pissing on me for that matter which has happened in England many a time, none of the Chinese men I could see were out of it on opiates, all these men queued up in an orderly line for their food and anyone who has been to China will confirm no one queues here, they all jump the queues it’s just their way of doing things, this usually pisses us English off but here at the soup kitchen they patiently queued.
There were also no scrums, spitting, fist fights or bullying as they all know they were going to get nine dumplings and as many bowls of soup they needed, no man tried to grope me or was improper
Chinas living homeless armies..
Who are not visited or helped by the hoards of tourists that come in to Xi'an
in their conduct, they were truly grateful.
Tony Day & The Yellow River Charity can be found: Tony Day & The Yellow River Charity can be found:
http://www.yellowrivercharity.com/ TO DONATE
Click here... Yellow River Charity
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