A beautiful life.

The first thing you notice about Waqi Wunin is how deeply alive she is– with sparkling eyes, a melting smile and a big personality housed in a pixie frame. Which is ironic considering the fact that every day, Waqi confronts her own death.

Waqi has AIDS; she got it from her drug-addicted husband who died in 2010, leaving her a widow with three small children, now 10, 8 and 6.

The good news is that Heifer International started a pig project in Zhaojue County, China in 2006 –and in 2009, Waqi was selected as a Passing on the Gift recipient of two piglets and a sow.

Despite the fact that she was then very ill (with fevers that gravely damaged her hearing), Waqi never missed a single training from Heifer staff and project managers. She learned to build a concrete sty for her pigs, and religiously adopted the habit of cleaning it three times a day to keep it hygienic and insect-free. She learned how to inject her pigs with vaccines and give them medicine so they could survive debilitating diarrhea and minor infections. She learned to raise nutritious forage crops in the fields behind her house and feed her pigs organically. And she learned to keep meticulous breeding records to improve the genetics of her stock.

As a result of her hard work, Waqi is now breeding the most healthy, clean, fertile, and laid-back pigs I’ve ever seen.

And it’s not just my opinion; the whole village of Puti knows that Waqi has the best piglets around. In 2011, she sold 140 piglets for 12,000 yuan ($2,000), plus earned another 4,000 yuan from an abundant rice crop fertilized by her pigs’ manure. All this from an original 2 piglets and a sow from Heifer – a gift that she passed on to a new needy family last year, along with all the teachings and trainings in how to raise good pigs that she generously shares with any neighbors who want to learn.

Waqi is a leader in Puti Village, the Zhaojue government official associated with Heifer’s project told me in admiring wonder. Teaching by the power of her own example, she’s paid off her husband’s debts, sent her children to school, loaned money to others in need, and even though she needs IV treatments three times a week and has to take handfuls of government-supplied medicines daily to stay healthy, she never stops working.  

Looking around her spotless, cheerful household with all its responsibilities of animals, farming and beautiful young children, I know it’s an overwhelming burden for one small healthy woman to manage. When I asked her where she gets the will and energy to prevail–and to give to others — for the first time her smile disappeared and the grief running just below the surface of her life crumpled her face in tears.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to get up in the morning, but thinking of my children forces me to get up and do the work,” she says when she composes herself again and breaks out the twinkling smile each one of her children has inherited. “It’s for my children that I want to go on.”

Waqi’s adorable oldest daughter.

This Mother’s Day you can share the love that Heifer is letting loose in the world by clicking here. ( I know it’s what I’m asking for.)

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, China, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “A beautiful life.

  1. Inspiring, thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow – wow – wow – this is one of my favorites. So much resilience in ALL of these fabulous people you continue to share with us. Love these beautiful, courageous smiles!

    • Isn’t she lovely?? I am so happy you liked her story because Waqi is definitely one of my favorite women ever (along with you!!) … what a will and drive, eh?? HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY IVETTE!!! xoxox b

      • I know, you just fall into her face. Can’t you make Aspen an R&R destination this summer?
        I have a nice bed! xo

  3. You capture the beauty and spirit of people and places so wonderfully! Thank you for showing us their world and enriching ours.

  4. What an inspirational story about a beautiful woman and beautiful children. Great to read about how that simple gift has made such a huge difference to her life and to the whole village.

    • Thanks, Alice .. I can tell you that the gift of pigs & all the trainings that Waqi took so seriously .. have completely transformed her life and allowed her to work, raise her children, get them educated, and succeed. If that’s not a beautiful Heifer story, I don’t know what is!! Really appreciate your comment!

  5. Susan

    Chicks for you chickie – two flocks – another knock em’ dead post Betty.

  6. Oh Betty. Glorious! I’m going to pass this email to my friends so maybe you’ll receive some donations. Pig farming, we had one of those in my hometown, kinda unique. Happy Mom’s Day to you! Kim

    • THANKS, Kim — I love your connecting my blog with others … and I can tell you for sure, no donation to Heifer goes for naught and the work they are doing is really worthy of support! Specially as we Moms reach out to other moms across the world … HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!! xoxox b

  7. Betty, Betty, Betty. What can I say? I keep saying the same thing: How inspiring you are. What a great photographer you are. I can’t say any more, unless it is to say as a favor for me, can you please write a book? Then I can get a copy and tell everyone I know you.

    • Okay,… I will write a book on it, but let me just get through this year — and I am SO happy that you like my writing, since I’m SUCH a huge fan of yours!!! HMD, honey — wish we were closer as I would love to grab a glass of champagne with you!!

  8. Betty, this is my favourite post about Heifer. It is inspirational on many levels.

    I will share this post with friends as a Mother’s Day gift suggestion.

    • Thanks SO much, Sybil — I just loved Waqi and wanted to share her story with everybody because she is one of those quiet people who have suffered so much but who has taken the smallest gift and turned it into pure gold through her tireless effort & courage. She’s really generous to her neighbors, too, and I think through her giving she is hoping that if something should happen to her, people in the village will return her generosity and be kind to her children. I can’t bear to think of her not surviving through her kids’ childhood … so I’m just praying that she lives for years to come!

  9. God, bless this woman. Amen

  10. As Mother’s Day approaches, thanks, Betty, for sharing Waqi’s story. What an inspiring woman. And happy Mother’s Day to you, too, my friend.

    • Thanks, Kathryn … this is the highest of holy days in my book so I’m so delighted to be able to share the story of a woman who inspired me so much!! Whenever I feel like bitching about my life, I’m going to think of Waqi and put a sock in it!! Lots of love to you, my darling friend!

  11. itchierfeet

    That is a really inspiring story, thanks for sharing it.

  12. Next time I hear anyone complain about anything (not counting you, of course), I will send them this post. You keep telling these stories with such an unbelievable freshness. Amazing.

  13. Martha Radatz

    A beautiful inspiring Mother’s Day story. Thank you!

  14. Thank you for sharing her story … it brought tears to my eyes and finally, the necessary incentive to get off my butt and donate to Heifer …. Ok, OK, I’m a little slow sometimes!!

    • You are not slow, Miss T … and I always love hearing from you! Waqi’s story and family are really an inspiration to me, and I can tell you that a donation to Heifer really does make these tales of hope and transformation possible. So happy that you liked the post!!

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