A debate has ignited over the donations raised by last week’s viral “ice boy picture“. The controversy was begun by reports that the Zhuanshanbao Elementary School (转山包小学), where the boy in the picture studies, has received 100 thousand yuan in donations, and 81 students, including the boy in question, were given 500 yuan each.
This piece of news was soon taken up by articles with headlines like ‘only 500 out of the 300 thousand yuan in donations end up going to the Ice Boy’, rapidly gaining momentum on social media and capturing the public’s attention once again. Many expressed doubts about whether the funds collected from contributors would be properly used. Some even felt indignant and concerned about potential embezzlement or appropriation.
In response Chen Furong, the director of the local education bureau, said in an interview with the Beijing News that the donations are not designated to a specific beneficiary or a single target project. Since there are thousands of students in the area who are experiencing the same sort of hardship, the fund will be better utilised to improve their overall living conditions, instead of directly being granted to the family of Wang Fuman, the boy in the picture. As for the exact amount of 500 yuan, he explained that some donors required that the money should be handed to the students in cash. To fulfil their wishes, they divided up this sum of money and distributed it to the students, resulting in each student receiving 500 yuan.
Chen also explained how the rest of the money was applied: they have already embarked on installing heating equipment as well as purchasing clothing. In another interview with CNR, Chen Yu, director of the Zhaotong Yunnan Youth Development Foundation, talked about the foundation’s ‘warm winter for the youth operation’ (青春暖冬行动) which it launched in collaboration with the Yunnan Provincial Committee of the Communist Youth League in response to the photo. Chen explained that the campaign is bound to help left-behind children and children suffering from economic difficulties in the areas stricken by the cold wave, which the ice boy photo epitomised.
CNR also consulted with lawyer Yue Shenshan, a careful observer of the charity field. Yue said that from his point of view, the organizations and the authorities have processed the donations in a legitimate way. Still it is necessary for all fundraising activities to ensure transparency all along. All relevant information, including sources, beneficiaries, facets of expenditures and distribution should be completely disclosed.
Commentator and author Zhang Tianpan’s article notes the misunderstandings of the public. He points out that people might have overreacted regarding the distribution of the donations, because making a single family rise to wealth is nowhere near a satisfying outcome. With respect to charity, he calls for more attention on universal benefit and equilibrium. He also notes that it is important to build trust in charity organizations, which are more capable of seeking effective application of the donations. In this respect, the Yunnan Youth Development Foundation has promised to gradually publish the detailed data for the donations on their official site. As the article concludes, only when the benefactors can attach more emphasis on the whole picture rather than a single individual, not letting emotion override reasonable thinking about the structural problems behind it, can charity in China develop in a more sound and healthy way.