Not beaten by poverty, young trash collector turns life story into scripts to chase her dreams

CHANGCHUN (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Ms Li Siying, a 28-year-old woman from Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin province, has completed both a TV and a film script based on her tough life experiences, where she struggled to chase her dreams and support a family by collecting and selling garbage.

"We used to be a well-off family, but when I was 15 years old, misfortune fell upon us and changed everything. My father experienced a business failure. Our house, car and savings were all gone. My family went broke," Ms Li recalled.

"It was a huge blow to my father and made him ill and leave us forever. My mother's condition had not been well before and it worsened at that time," Ms Li added.

Since then, Ms Li and her family descended into poverty. Her mother could not work given her poor health. High rent in the town forced them to move to the suburbs. Ms Li and her brother had to drop out of school and become the breadwinners.

Ms Li once went to a restaurant and begged the owner to give her a job.

"Please let me work here. I can wash the dishes and help in the kitchen. You can offer me lower wages as long as you allow me to work here," she said.

But the owner refused and told her that it was illegal to hire her, a 15-year-old minor.

She was walking down a street one day, upset and with a heart full of worry, when she kicked a beverage bottle. Looking at the bottle, the idea came to her that she could collect and sell garbage to earn money for her family.

But the job was not easy.

In summer, the garbage bins stank to high heaven and flies and bugs swarmed around. In winter, cold weather froze her hands. She was also often cast strange and loathing looks from others.

In the face of all these difficulties, Ms Li has shown extraordinary determination and an upbeat spirit.

"Life is hard for me but tears cannot help either. A day will pass no matter how you feel about it so why not live with smiles," she said.

Ms Li had a dream of being a scriptwriter and she did not give up in spite of the hardships.

She took carbon rods from waste batteries to use as pen for writing on waste paper. She learned typewriting from a book on computer fundamentals she found in a garbage bin. She also studied high school courses with the textbooks she recycled.

In 2010, Ms Li found a job as a typist and hoped she no longer needed to live by collecting garbage. She bought a secondhand computer and tried to do her writing on it.

Two years later, her mother's cerebral infarction started to deteriorate. Mrs Li lost her ability to stand up and walk so she could not take care of herself.

Quiting her job, Ms Li once again turned to recycling garbage in order to look after her mother at home.

To rehabilitate her mother, Ms Li accompanied her to practise walking at home. She also needed to go on the streets to collect garbage during the day. In the evening, she kept writing.

During this time, Ms Li continued to write and in 2012 completed a collection of works including poems and essays.

In the following years, she finished a TV script consisting 30 episodes and a 400,000-word novel inspired by her own experiences.

In 2018, a longer TV script and a movie script with the same title, which translates as Sunflowers In Full Blossom, were finished, bringing her another step closer to her dream.

The 62-episode TV script was adapted from her real-life experiences. Ms Li hoped that, one day, she could see her work on the screen, inspiring more people with her story.