Don't let disability and poverty go hand in hand
A government-run nursing home in Guang'an district has so far helped four families to leave poverty behind, and has helped bring a greater sense of happiness back into the lives.[Photo: ChinaPlus/Zhao Feiyu]
Research in China has shown that having a disabled family member doubles the likelihood that your household will be economically impoverished, highlighting the strong link between poverty and disability.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called poverty alleviation "the toughest battle of all tough battles", and called for innovation in this fight.
CRI's reporter Min Rui visits a nursing home in a village in Guang'an, the hometown of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, that has taken up the battle and is helping local residents to leave poverty behind.
The Guang'an district of Guang'an city is in the basin area of Sichuan Province in southwest China.
For many villagers, the fastest way to get rich and build a better life is to move to a city to find a job.
But for people like Deng Baiyu, who has to care for his severely disabled wife, breaking out of the cycle of poverty was not something he could do alone.
"I help brush her teeth, wash her face, get her dressed. My wife is paralyzed from the waist down, so taking care of her makes it impossible for me to go out and work. I have to feed her, give her sponge baths, and turn her some fifteen times a day as she lies on the bed."
Adding to these already significant challenges is the fact that businesses are not willing to take him on as an employee because he is in his 60s, so they consider him too old to join their workforce.
Receiving limited income from farming and social insurance, Mr. Deng found himself on the breadline and needing to take care of his wife on his own.
And he is not the only one in the village who is struggling.
The same cycle of disability and poverty has been a trap for Zhu Zhengxin, a blind man living in the same village, who relies on the help of his brother to get by.
In 2015, local government officials visited poor households across the village to better understand the challenges they face. Ding Wenming is in charge of the village's poverty alleviation work.
"There are 50-thousand people in Guang'an district living in poverty. Among them, 70% are either sick or disabled. Most of them are seriously ill and require intensive care, and they have lost the ability to work. Some of them have difficulty carrying out the activities that are essential for living independently. If their family members have to take care of them, they themselves are not able to go out and work."
After hearing similar stories of hardship from people living in the village, local officials were determined to find a way to improve the lives of these disadvantaged residents.
The officials used poverty alleviation funds to convert an abandoned school building into a nursing home on a trial basis in 2016. They furnished the classrooms and built accessible facilities for people who need to use wheelchairs.
Mr. Deng was hired to work as the nurse to look after the residents.[Photo: ChinaPlus/Zhao Feiyu]
Tenants of the nursing home are only charged a small fee to cover the cost of food and daily maintenance.
And they trained and hired Mr. Deng to work as a nurse to look after the residents.
With 12 beds in six rooms, the small nursing home welcomed its first guests in April 2016. Among the first to move into the facility was Mr Deng's wife, and Zhu Zhengxin.
The nursing home is under the jurisdiction of Huang Guowu, who is the head of Xingping township.
"When we first launched this nursing home, many people questioned our approach. Will they be well taken care of? Will they drift apart from their family? I understand that all people have these emotions and concerns. So I told the families, you can live here for a few days to see for yourselves. And later on, they decided that they are very happy for their family members to stay."
Deng Baiyu says he is satisfied with the care received by his wife and the other residents of the nursing home. And since he has taken on the paid work as a nurse, he is able to save some money this year.
"People tell me the job is very challenging, physically and mentally. And I admit that not everyone can take it. I do this work for the youngsters so they can go out to work and make money. I can do this work for the greater good."
With Zhu Zhengxin being taken care of in the nursing home, his brother has been able to work in the city, and is likely to get married this year.
One year after the doors first opened, this government-run nursing home has so far helped four families to leave poverty behind, and has helped bring a greater sense of happiness back into the lives.
Despite China's decades of strong economic development, not everyone has benefited equally, especially those living in rural and ethnic minority areas.
The village of Guang'an, where the nursing home is located, is the birthplace of China's late leader Deng Xiaoping, who started the country on the path of reform and opening up that has turned China a modern economic powerhouse. Deng once pointed out that poverty is not socialism.
Over the last three decades, more than 500 million Chinese people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
Now Chinese leaders have taken up the formidable task of winning the battle against poverty. In 2017, China made a great leap forward in its poverty alleviation efforts, bringing within reach the government's goal of lifting all of China's people out of poverty by the year 2020.
This nursing home has helped bring a greater sense of happiness back into the lives.[Photo: ChinaPlus/Zhao Feiyu]