Ma Baoru was born in Hebei, where she has lived all her life. She was a youth at the time of the Cultural Revolution, where she was noticed as a very enthusiastic diligent worker, and was sent to receive special training as an English Language interpreter, to meet the western business opportunities anticipated. However, she was soon transferred to the Tourism Department in Baoding, where she spent most of her working life.
In 1989, Rewi Alley asked Tom Newnham to write the story of the New Zealand nurse, Kathleen Hall. Baoding was the closest city to the village of Songjiazhuang, where Kathleen had worked, and it was there that Tom met Madam Ma Baoru in the Municipal Foreign Affairs Office. He asked about He Ming Qing, Kathleen’s Chinese name. She was a little surprised that he wanted to find out about a Chinese woman.
Ma Baoru accompanied Tom for a week and discovered that Kathleen was not Chinese, but a very special New Zealand woman. Inspired to begin her own research, Ma Baoru is today Kathleen’s most devoted disciple, escorting increasing numbers of New Zealanders to Songjiazhuang village.
(Our photo shows her at the time she received her Honorary Membership from Dave Bromwich during the NZCFS Projects Tour in 2009.)