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Home Our Missions Mission of Charity Tzu Chi Delivers Winter Aid to Thousands Across China - Yunnan

Tzu Chi Delivers Winter Aid to Thousands Across China - Yunnan

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Tzu Chi Delivers Winter Aid to Thousands Across China
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Poverty in the midst of plenty
While volunteers were active in Fuding, others were performing a similar service in another corner of China – the city of Kunming, capital of the southwest province of Yunnan. Kunming’s nickname is the ‘spring city’ because it enjoys the best climate in China and is one of the country’s biggest producers of flowers. Yunnan has a greater variety of plants than any other province in China. But the people who received the foundation’s aid are the blameless victims of an environmental disaster that has befallen the Dian lake, close to Kunming. It has become so polluted by industrial and domestic waste that its water no longer meets drinking standards. The government was forced to switch the supply of water to the four million residents of Kunming from the lake to an upstream region of the Panlong river which flows into the lake; it built the Songhua dam and reservoir, which cut the flow of the Panlong, and declared nearby villages 'water conservation areas’. This means severe restrictions on the economic activities of the residents – a ban on raising livestock and using chemical fertilizers on their crops. In addition, the government has banned tourism and industrial development. This has made life even harder for people who were already poor. The foundation picked two of the villages in this ‘conservation’ area, Zhuyuan and Dashao, for its distribution this winter.

"Our villagers say that, of all the restrictions, the one banning chemical fertilizer for vegetables is the worst,” said Ding Xueqing, secretary of Zhuyuan village. “The area for vegetable farming is restricted and the government has issued an order banning the cultivation of flowers and vegetables in 2012.” This leaves farmers with potatoes and turnips as the only crops they can grow and sell. They also grow cornmeal, their staple diet. To make matters worse, the village suffered from a drought last year, with no rain in July and August, which affected farm yields. “After asking a lot of questions, we finally found out that, because water runs downhill and Zhuyuan happens to be above the water source, the water cannot flow to every Zhuyuan household,” said volunteer Liu Mei. “When there is a drought, families growing turnips or cabbages will have irrigation problems.”

So the villagers were especially happy to see the arrival of the volunteers and the food, clothes and blankets they brought. One lady came, wearing thin layers of clothing, despite the bitter cold. “I wear this when it is cold,” she explained. “There is nothing else I can do. I do not have any other clothes and cannot afford a winter coat. I do not have the money. Whatever money I have, I spend it on food for our little baby.”

It was the same scene in Dashao village; only money for food, not for clothes. Its residents used to make a good living from growing flowers, which they sold in Kunming, whose markets supply the whole nation. Then came the ban on chemical fertilizer and an end to growing flowers as well as many vegetables. Overnight, the village went from prosperity to poverty. A year ago, the volunteers went there and distributed cooking oil, rice, quilts, clothing and padded jackets. When they returned this year, they found that many were wearing the same jackets; the label from Hualien in Taiwan was a constant reminder that someone cared for them. “A year ago, we gave them care and comfort,” said volunteer Liu Mei. “This winter you can see the old people still wearing the cotton clothes, like that grandfather who was helped by his wife to wash his clothes and dry them on this sunny day. They keep them as good as new.” She and other volunteers visited the home of Cai Tianfu, 44, who is crippled and unable to work. They found his earth-built home bare except for a few empty bowls; this they have seen before, but it left their hearts full of sadness. “You do not have enough bedding,” said Liu Mei. “Where is the winter quilt we gave you last year?” Cai explained that, because the house had many rats, he had stored it at his mother’s home. “I wrapped it up well and left it there.” Liu told him that he had to use it, otherwise he would fall sick.

The residents were delighted with the quilted shirts and jackets brought by the volunteers. They loaded them into the carts and the baskets of the villagers. For Grandmother Yang Qiaozhi, the journey home was a challenge, with roads so steep that she had to go or on foot. Volunteers went with her to help carry the load. After traveling 30 minutes along a mountain path, they arrived at her home; she lives alone, since the death of her husband and with her children living far away. To survive, she must carefully ration her food; her life is very simple. “My home is embarrassing. My blankets are all so tattered and do not protect me from the cold. I need many to stay warm.”

Among the volunteers were doctors. One found a young boy who struggles to read and holds books close to his face, twisting them back and forth. Dr Lin Rongzong examined him and found that he had been forced to wear glasses that did not suit his eyes. His family and teachers believed that he had cataracts. Without money for testing, they had given up hope. “He has not got cataracts,” said Dr Lin. “He is just near-sighted and one eye is very bad.” The volunteers provided contact information and promised to arrange treatment. They were very touched to receive gifts from two students, one a quilted jacket and the other a card. “I did this jacket for our aunties because they have given us so many things,” said Yu Haibo. “They came from very far away. One of the uncles says that it looks like a jacket but it is really made of love.” Li Yuhui said that they had made a card as a gesture of thanks. “Master Cheng Yen, we children of the mountains love you!” Like the bright sun of the Yunnan mountains, these words pieced the heart of every volunteer, bringing the warmth of love in this place, so cold and remote.



 

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