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Care for disabled in Guizhou boosts rural incomes

Updated: Dec 25, 2020 China Daily Print
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A poverty relief program that supports disabled villagers in centralized care centers has expanded across hilly Guizhou province after being pioneered in Yuliangxi village.

The village, in the northeast of the province, set up Guizhou's first specialized nursing home for disabled people four years ago.

It is staffed by six volunteers, including village officials and other members of the local Communist Party of China branch.

With clinics, a canteen and a rehabilitation room, it offers free services that have helped relieve 15 poor families of the burden of caring for disabled family members.

That has eased financial pressure by freeing up other family members to seek job opportunities elsewhere.

Yang Zailian, the village's Party chief, was a major advocate of the program.

The reform-minded farmer was elected in 2004 and has since pushed for a shift in local farming to more lucrative cash crops, ranging from watermelon to strawberries, and promoted the raising of fish and pigs.

With Yang's leadership, the village, which has a population of 4,600, formed eight rural cooperatives and a mutual-aid program as part of an attempt to address the root cause of local poverty, provide incentives for entrepreneurial farmers and boost sales of farm produce.

As villagers got richer, Yang discovered that families with disabled members were still struggling.

"On the road to xiaokang, no one shall be left behind," he said, referring to the central government's effort to build China into a "moderately prosperous society in all respects" by 2021.

Yang, 62, started his social experiment in 2013 in an attempt to tackle disability induced poverty.

As part of the early endeavor, he offered welfare jobs such as street-sweepers, cooks and janitors at the cooperatives.

The village's 116 certified disabled residents are given priority in applications for those jobs, which can pay 400 yuan ($61) a month.

Three years later, Yang upgraded the effort to target those with "severe disabilities"-people with intellectual, mental or severe physical disabilities who cannot do such jobs.

He created the nursing home with financial support from the provincial disabled persons' federation.

In addition to caring for the severely disabled, the program also encouraged capable residents to help people with lesser disabilities raise pigs, fish and grow vegetables.

The simple jobs can bring in 800 to 1,500 yuan a month, helping shore up family incomes and shake off poverty.

"As long as I am here, I will not sit by leaving disabled people unattended to," Yang said.

Yao Jinhua, 58, who has congenital dwarfism, moved into the nursing home four years ago and now helps to look after another resident.

"I used to rely entirely on government benefits," she said, adding that she now leads a more dignified life, earning about 1,300 yuan a month by cooking and taking care of one disabled senior at the home.

The village's success has spawned a province-wide endeavor that has attracted more financial resources.

The provincial disabled persons' federation says Guizhou now has six rehabilitation centers and 20 nursing homes for the disabled, with scores more to come.

The nursing home program was one of a number of innovative approaches adopted by authorities around the country to curb poverty among the disabled as China raced to eradicate the last traces of absolute poverty.

For example, authorities in Xinyang, Henan province, have improved accessibility in the homes of disabled people by installing toilets, hand rails or lowering the height of stoves so that wheelchair users and other disabled people can take care of themselves.

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