It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then you hear a story about people overcoming all odds to help others and it completely changes your perspective of the world.
Two Chinese men, 53-year-old Jia Wenqi and 54-year-old Jia Haixia, have been doing something amazing for the last 13 years. They have planted more than 10,000 trees around Yeli Village in northeastern China, a region which once was covered in nothing but rocks and weeds. But what is really stunning about this story is that both friends have severe physical disabilities – Haixa is completely blind and Wenqi is a double amputee with no arms. Yet, it did not prevent them from accomplishing their mission.
Haixia was born with congenital cataracts which left his left eye blind. In 2000, he lost sight in his other eye after a work accident. Wenqi had a tragic accident at the age of three years old, as a result of which he lost both of his arms.
But even despite these challenges, the pair of friends did not lose faith in the good and did not give up on their life. In 2002, when Haixia and Wenqi were struggling to secure jobs, they came up with a plan to make money on planting trees.
However, it was not only about money. The two friends wanted to revive the area around their village to create a better future for the next generations. Thus, they leased 8 acres of land near the Ye river from the local government and set to make their plan a reality.
“Our tree planting may not have much substantial benefit for the present generation, but it leaves a green environment to the next one,” Haixia told The Globe and Mail. “We are physically disabled but mentally healthy. We have this big dream in our heart to leave a stretch of green to our children.”
Since then, Haixia and Wenqi have planted over 10,000 trees in the area and it all became possible thanks to their dedication and, most important, teamwork. The friends have learned to overcome their disabilities by constantly helping each other.
“I am his hands,” said Haixia. “He is my eyes. We are good partners.”
Haixia and Wenqi wake up every morning at 7 a.m. and get to the site to plant more trees.
When they reach the river, Wenqi carries Haixia on his back to get to the other side.
Because of the lack of money, the friends cannot afford to buy new saplings, so they use cuttings from grown trees instead. When it comes to collecting some cuttings, Haixia climbs the tree and Wenqi directs him.
These efforts require extraordinary dedication and patience. The work is hard and doesn’t always bring the desired results, but the friends never give up.
“Just ask a normal person to work with his arms in his pockets, like Wenqi!” Haixia said. “We handicapped people have an endurance that normal people don’t possess.”
After the touching story of two friends became known in China and worldwide, many people have volunteered to help Haixia and Wenqi continue their mission, as well as improve their living conditions. Thus, a team of health care professionals have offered to perform an eye surgery for Haixia for free, as a result of which the man could actually regain his sight. Some people have also donated money to ensure the pair will have a decent place to live and enough food to eat.
Stories like this one remind us that everything is possible if there are a positive spirit and determination. Let’s hope that the efforts of Haixia and Wenqi will inspire many people to help make this world a better place to live.
Other photos: IMAGINECHINA/CORBIS