BEIJING – Many things about Wang Fuman's life have changed since it became an international phenomenon a year ago. Then, it was an 8-year-old boy who had to walk for one hour in a thin jacket from his grandmother's mud hut to his icy cold, scarce school. His father worked very far and his mother had left the family.
Now – a year later his teacher posted a picture of him coming to school with his head covered with icicles, a photo that became viral and earned him the Internet name "Ice Boy" or "Snowflake Boy" – Fuman has a new home, a warmer school and his mother at home.
Despite the change in circumstances that the moniker brought him, Fuman still loves being known by his real name.
"& # 39; Snowflake boy" is just a nickname, "said the 9-year-old in a video shared this week by a newspaper in Kunming's provincial capital of Yunnan. "In my hometown, my classmates treat me like a normal person, and I consider myself a normal person.If I were treated like a star, I would feel embarrassing."
Fuman was one of the 61 million children "left behind", young people who stay in their poor cities, while their parents look for work in big cities.
Fuman and his elder sister, Fumei, lived with their grandmother in a mountainous region of the Yunnan province in southwest China. To go to school, he had to walk for three miles at temperatures up to 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 ° C).
Once there, the school had no warmth and little in terms of educational resources.
Everything changed after the photo that his teacher published showing Fuman with ruddy cheeks, chapped wind and frozen hair. Even his hands were chapped and covered with chilblains.
The picture clearly showed the poverty in which many Chinese families still live, despite the rapid economic gains of China in recent decades. More than 30 million Chinese live below the national poverty line, subsisting for less than $ 360 a year. Yunnan is one of the worst affected provinces. The central government is trying to lift these people out of extreme poverty by 2020.
After the photo of the "snowflake boy" became viral, Ludian County received a flood of donations and government aid.
Local foundations have launched a charity campaign to help children from poor families stay warm in winter. They raised $ 47,000 within a week.
His school, Zhuanshanbao Elementary, was equipped with adequate heating and new educational facilities. Now he has a science lab, an art room and a computer room, where students have access to digital textbooks. Even clothes and sports equipment have been donated.
Each class has two heaters inside it and, as a result, Fuman does not have chillers in the hands this year.
Fuman's father got a job at a construction site in Kunming, 250 miles from Zhuanshanbao. He can earn almost $ 600 a month there, and is close enough to allow him to go home three times in the last year.
"Our lives will always get better from now on," said his father, Wang Gangkui, to the People's Daily, a state-run newspaper. "Compared to the mud walls and muddy roads of the past, we are now better sheltered from the wind and rain."
During the week, however, Fuman lives in the student dorm, which has new quilts and thick mattresses for the 73 students who live there, and receive medicines to prevent freezing. Even the school canteen has been updated.
"Our class is very hot now.I usually go to school, so I do not have to go home every day," the boy told the China Daily this month, adding that he wanted to study hard and become a police officer so to be able to "take down bad people in the world."
Shortly after reaching the celebrity, Fuman took a three-day tour of Beijing with her 10-year-old father and sister. They visited a prestigious police college, the People & # 39; s Public Security University and the SWAT headquarters of the city. The SWAT officers taught the children the fighting skills, and they tried rock climbing and touched a real gun.
"The real gun was much heavier than my toy guns," Fuman told reporters at the time. "They [SWAT officers] I train hard every day, but I still want to be a policeman. "
Fuman is doing well at school, Vice President Fu Heng told the People's Daily. "It's in the top three for math and for the top five in general," he said. "He also has a good relationship with the other students."
The Wang family now lives in a small two-story house closer to school.
"Our old house was a bit dirty, but the new house is clean," Fuman said. "In the old house there were many old memories because my grandfather had built it in. But in the new house, there are [new] remember because my father built it. "
Better yet, their mother, who had worked in restaurants in the eastern Zhejiang province, returned home in the middle of the year. "I think we're very lucky Mom can come back. [I am] very happy, "Wang's sister, Fumei, said in the video.
Every weekend, they slip into his bed to sleep together, they said. "Mum is back, our family is very happy," said Fuman.
Now he cares more, he said. "If our clothes are dirty, it will wash them in. When it's cold, he asks us to bring another quilt to school," Fuman told the Kunming newspaper.
His mother, Lu Dafeng, explained why he left in the first place. "I did not like his father because he was poor and disappointing, so I got angry, I left and went to work in other places," he said in the video. "But later I lost my children, so I came back."
But it may not stay long. "This year, after the lunar new year [in February], I will go to work on the construction site with his father, "he said.
Lunar New Year is the biggest Chinese annual festival. Many people return to their hometown for the week. "Quest & # 39; year, [my wife] he's back home, so our family can have a happy new year together, "Fuman's father said in the video, he even managed to buy a 220-pound pig for the New Year's party.
The improved fortunes of Fuman have warmed hearts online in China, with the hashtag "# one year of the Snowflakes Boy" that has attracted 77 million views on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
"What a warm ending, can every child be treated kindly by the world," wrote a Weibo user with the Hangxiaoye screen name.
The living standards of the local population have improved considerably thanks to the attention and financial help that Wang has brought, said Tang Yadong, mayor of the city including Zhuanshanbao.
A total of 17,857 people in Ludian County – out of a population of 458,200 people – exceeded the poverty line last year, according to state data, but the area remains deeply deprived.
And the Kunming newspaper video showed that there are still many children "left behind" in the area.
"It's three miles from my home to school, I'm bored at home because I have only my grandparents to talk to," said Lu Zipeng, a third-grade student at Wang's elementary school.
"I really miss Mom and Dad, I really want to visit them in Zhejiang [on the coast]but I can not, "he said." Sometimes I see them coming home in my dreams. "
While some Weibo users praise the power of the Internet, others complain that these situations only improve if they attract media attention.
"There is money to improve the situation once they are reported," one wrote. "How do we get rid of poverty as we usually say, are they getting rid of real poverty?"