LUCAS -- Candace Lybarger sees the faces of fear every morning when she turns on her home computer.
The Lucas resident, wife and mother of two teaches English as a second language to youngsters across China, a nation under siege from the coronavirus that has now claimed more than 1,100 lives around the world.
Since the virus began in late December in the industrial city of Wuhan, about 650 miles from Beijing, it has spread to 42,000 people in 28 countries, the vast majority in mainland China.
"My heart has truly been heavy," she said Wednesday. "These kids are the most darling, hardest-working .... it's heartbreaking."
Lybarger posted Wednesday on Facebook (see below) about the children she works with, ages 3 to 17.
A 2000 graduate of Lucas High School, Lybarger earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in early childhood education five years later from OSU. She worked as a substitute teacher in Richland County.
When she and husband, Michael, a local insurance agent, decided to start a family, Lybarger became a work-at-home mom to their children, Arbor, 11, and Asher, 6.
Last July, she began working for VIPKid, an online teaching and educational company headquartered in Beijing. She wakes up every day at 3:30 a.m. and begins working one-on-one with students at 4 a.m., teaching English as a second language.
China is 13 hours "ahead" of Eastern Standard Time, which means it's 5 p.m. when she starts in China, sessions that last until 9 p.m. for Lybarger on weeknights. She also does online sessions on weekends.
Each session, which is in addition to the regular school classes the Chinese students attend, lasts 30 minutes. Students can sign up for as many classes as they want, but Chinese educational authorities require at least a 30-minute break between sessions.
Lybarger said she works now with about 100 students. Since July, she has taught more than 600 students and conducted more than 2,000 classes.
The smiling, laughing Chinese children with whom she has fallen in love are dealing with the stresses of a nation battling with a horrible medical emergency.
"You can see it on their faces and you know what they are going through. I love these kids," Lybarger said.
Here is her Facebook post:
"My heart has been so heavy for my Chinese kids. Every day I spend between 5-8 hours in China teaching. I have taught a great number of kids almost every day since June. It’s unbelievable how close you can feel to someone so far away. They know about my life and I know about theirs. The kids will ask me if Arbor’s team won the basketball game, or if Asher received his next stripe on his jujitsu belt. Little Whind reminds me so much of my Asher, and Xiaosongyue would be best friends with Arbor. It’s true what people say- kids are kids, no matter where they live. ￼
"These children are absolutely full of joy and are precious, as are their families. Since the spread of the Coronavirus, the majority of my kids have been stuck in their homes for a month. They are not even allowed to step outside their doors. I have 4 kids that haven’t seen their parents for a month because they are doctors and nurses. Some of my kids were sent out of their cities to stay with grandparents while their parents stay in the city.
"The stress and worry I see on my students faces guts me. They come to class crying, pale, and full of worry. We talk about things and they confide their worries to me. They show me pictures they have drawn. They say they are eating a lot of rice because they get 2 vouchers a week to eat. They would love some cake or pizza! They tell me that the news says the virus has spread to America and they instruct me to buy face masks before they run out and to protect Arbor and Asher. They remind me to take temperatures regularly if someone gets a cold and to make sure my kids are washing their hands. My students are in a disease ridden war zone and they are worried about me and my family.
"I have 30 minutes to take their minds off of reality and take them somewhere else. 30 minutes to make them feel like people aren’t dying and sick outside their door. By the end of class I have smiles and laughs. I pray that these sweet families overcome the Coronavirus as every morning a part of my heart stays in China ❤️ #wuhanstrong #chinajiayou"