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Hartlepool father hailed a hero in China
7:30am Sunday 17th March 2013 in News
John Johnson, an engineer originally from Hartlepool, who is raising money for poor in his new homeland of China
An engineer has been hailed a local hero and compared to a national icon in his new homeland of China for raising thousands for charity.
Zhang Yunyun of the Suzhou Daily newspaper writes for The Northern Echo about the impact made by John Johnson.
CHILDREN desperately in need of urgent medical treatment or too poor to go to school have been helped by a new hero.
John Johnson, originally from Hartlepool, met his wife, Annie, in Shanghai, 18 years ago and they now live with their two children, Jack and Catherine in Suzhou city, which has a population of 13 million.
In 2000 he read about a school in Xi’an in Shaanxi province which led the generous couple to send money to some of its needy pupils.
A visit to meet the cash-strapped youngsters left the engineer feeling shocked, he told the Suzhou Daily newspaper.
“A few hours before I’d been complaining about bad service in the hotel and then I saw the school and the students’ homes. They had next to nothing and my mouth dropped.
“The homes were built with mud. There was no glass in the windows, they glued thin paper to window frames instead,” he said.
And when his children told him about a sick nine-year-old at their school who had been diagnosed with leukaemia and needed expensive treatment, Mr and Mrs Johnson felt compelled to help by running a half marathon.
They inspired 370 teachers, pupils and parents to join in the the event which raised £14,000.
Mr Johnson also spends time visiting lonely elderly people in the area and has set up four charitable trusts which his children donate their pocket money to.
He has become so well known that locals have dubbed him a foreign ‘Lei Feng’, an iconic selfless and modest role model in Chinese culture .
“Donating a certain amount of their income to the poor is something British people do in their everyday lives. I was brought up that way and I consider it part of my duties to help others," he said.
Mr Johnson added: “Man should build bridges, not walls and when we give something we actually get something back.
“People in the neighbourhood, teachers and classmates of my children are all very friendly to us. We’ve made many good friends here and I think that’s the best reward I can think of.”