Cover of English-language edition of The Diary of Ma Yan
The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese School Girl (马燕日记) is the diary of Chinese schoolgirl Ma Yan (马燕), edited and published in the West by French journalist Pierre Haski.
In March 2001, Haski was filming a documentary on Chinese Muslims. During his journey, he arrived in the extremely remote village of Zhangjiashu, in the northwestern region of Ningxia, and stayed for a few days in the village imam's modest hut. There, Haski and his team were treated wellby the impoverished villagers. Facilities such as drinking water and education were very poor.
As they were leaving, the mother of thirteen-year-old Ma Yan thrust her daughter's diaries into the arms of the foreigners, pleading them to help her. Back in Shanghai, the team were very touched by the words on the tattered pages, in which Ma Yan described her wishes to continue to attend school and help her family.Being desperately poor, the Ma family had to pull Ma Yan out of school as the fees were much too expensive for Ma Yan's family to afford. Haski later published the poignant autobiography, first in France. In the summer of 2002, a fund known as the Children of Ningxia was set up to send Ma Yan and children like her to school. Since then the diary has been published in seventeen languages and sold over 200,000copies worldwide. Ma Yan is finishing her education and wishes to be a journalist. I want to study journalism at university, she said. Asked why, she pointed to Mr. Haski, whom she calls Uncle Han. Because Uncle Han and others traveled across the country and found poor children like us, she said. I'd like to be a journalist so I, too, can help poor children. Thanks to her, 250 other Chinese schoolchildren have also been put through the education system on the way to a better life. The basic necessities of life such as a fresh water well and agricultural fertilisers have also been provided to her village.