Posts Tagged With: Zhaojue County

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

Not exactly a Tiger Mom.

Jisu Erxi is 70 years old, poor, and living with her husband Leer Wujia and her three grandchildren in Gudu community, Zhaojue County, Sichuan Province. She’s missing some teeth and there’s no doubt that the years have not been easy on her. Her eldest son is in jail, having left behind his two children with Jisu & Leer when they were infants. Her second son married a nice girl from the village but he is a migrant worker miles away. And when Jisu’s youngest son disappeared, his wife fled the drug-filled marriage, leaving another baby behind for Jisu & Leer to raise.

The Wujias definitely don’t follow writer Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom rules for perfect Chinese mothers: (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.

But whatever Jisu lacks in forcing her own children to achieve, she more than makes up for in kindness: the entire time she was telling us the sad story of her children’s failures, she was stroking, caressing and hugging the grandchildren they left behind. Her diligence, caring and hard work is what brought her to the attention of Abi Shiha, leader of the Gudu Women’s Self Help Group.

The irrepressible Abi Shiha

“These women lead really harsh lives,” says the relatively affluent Abi, “but they were working so hard, I felt like I should help them find new channels to succeed.”

And those new channels led to Heifer and some really great pigs.

Established in March 2009 with the help of Heifer International, the Self-Help Groups Project consists of about 80 female-headed families in Zhaojue County who agreed to participate in livestock trainings, group savings accounts (each woman contributes $1/month and from that fund any member can borrow), and in community- and income-building activities like hog-breeding and community clean-ups that teach group responsibility and achievement (Tiger Mom maxims).

Everywhere you look, it’s women doing the work.

It’s step-by-step learning for women whose daily lives are a struggle against deprivation and despair.

A stockpile against hunger of beautiful maize.

Zhaojue is an outlier community: peri-urban, beset by AIDS and drug abuse, and predominantly female, as the vast majority of males have left for work in the cities. Typical income is less than $300/year and there is very little land to farm. But with the gift of Heifer pigs, the women’s income increased more than 3,000 RMB in a year, and some families increased 10,000. (Abi & her husband raised these prize winners:)

Gudu women  have learned to be self-reliant, help each other, and establish hygienic habits in their houses and the community, even petitioning the government to build clean, healthy biogas stoves. They also adopted Heifer’s Farmer Field School trainings to plant pasture for their animals and vegetables for their children, and by November 5, half the women had Passed on the Gift of animals to another 80 needy families– a full six months’ ahead of schedule.

As we sat in the yard talking & admiring Jisu’s 3 Heifer sows, 1 fattening pig and 9 piglets, the grandchildren, who were rather withdrawn at first, reverted to their feisty adorable selves. They are all in school now (the better township school Jisu proudly told us) and they finally have enough food to eat and clothes to wear. “Before, we had nothing to sell so we couldn’t even buy shoes,” she explains. “But now we have pigs.”

The promise of a new generation: Jisu’s daughter-in-law and youngest grandchild.

And in Zhaojue, pigs are better than tigers any day.

Categories: Animals, China, Heifer International, Hunger, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

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