A Chinese woman who has spent her life in poverty is being hailed a hero for selflessly saving dozens of abandoned babies over the course of her lifetime.
According to Chinese newspaper Yanzhao Metro Daily, 88-year-old Lou Xiaoying has rescued more than 30 abandoned babies from the streets of Jinhua, China, over the past four decades.
Together with her late husband, who died 17 years ago, Lou personally raised four of the orphaned children, while others were taken in by Lou's family and friends.
Now suffering from heart and kidney failure, Lou -- who scavenged recyclables from trash cans for a living -- is finally being recognized for her years of quiet service, with many in her community stepping forward to lend a hand in her final days.
Story continues below photo.
"The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in," Lou said, according to the Daily Mail.
"Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness and I realized I had a real love of caring for children. I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives," she continued.
Lou, who has one biological daughter, single-handedly adopted her sixth child -- a little boy she had found in a dumpster -- at the age of 82.
"Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me," she said of her adopted son, 7-year-old Qiling.
One of Lou's adopted daughters, 33-year-old Zhang Juju, said that despite her mother's extreme poverty, she always tried to provide the best life possible for the children she rescued.
"[Even if her old age] there was no stopping her from going out," Zhang told Chinese news website 19lou.com, adding that her mother had gone out three or four times daily to collect trash for money, even as she started to get sick.
According to the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua, Lou is still thinking of her beloved children even after becoming so ill that she has almost lost the ability to speak and move.
"I don't have many days left [but] what I want to see most of all is for…[7-year-old Qiling] to go to school. That way, even after I am gone, there will be no regrets left in my life," she told Xinhua from her hospital bed.
Though Lou could not afford to send her eldest three children to school, she managed to put Zhang and another 33-year-old daughter through junior high school.
As Lou's story of heroism and love makes headlines in China, people in Lou's community have stepped forward to support and further her life's mission.
An online fundraising effort has been started to help offset the woman's hospital bills, and an elementary school in Lou's hometown has offered to take young Qiling in at subsidized rates.
"This is the last wish of [Lou] and we must help her achieve it," Jinhua City Primary School's principal Zhang Fangxiao, who said he was extremely moved by Lou's story, told 19lou.com.
LOOK: Photos of Lou and her family:
Note: There is a discrepancy between news sources regarding exactly how many abandoned children Lou Xiaoying rescued in her lifetime. Xinhua News uses the phrase "more than 20," while most other news sources put the number at above 30. For this article, we have used the number provided by Lou's daughter on the fundraising website.