Lanzhou Jingcheng Public Service Center is located in Gansu Province and mainly serves the disadvantaged groups in society, helping them renew their confidence in life and build up their self-reliance. Services include: 1) Care for the rural children left behind 2) Care for children after surgery 3) Concern for the old public service areas 4) Carrying out a variety of public training, consulting, and advocacy activities.
Juanjuan's Family Background
Our second home visit was to Juanjuan’s home. Juanjuan's family has 5 people in it, but right now only 4 of them are living in the house. They have 10 mu (about 1.5 acres) of land on which to plant crops.
There are three mu of alfalfa to feed the sheep, three mu of corn, three mu of potatoes, and one mu of millet. Wheat is not drought-resistant and generally has a low yield, so many families, including Juanjuan’s, choose not to plant it now.
Juanjuan’s mother is 40 years old. She has never attended school or worked anywhere other than her home town. She doesn’t understand much Mandarin and regularly speaks the Dongxiang language.
The family relies on the lowest form of government financial aid as its main source of income.
The headmaster pointed to a row of brick houses on the left, and said, “This row of houses was built thanks to the government's precise anti-poverty policy, and without it, the family would not have been able to complete the task."
When listening to the headmaster’s words, I was very curious as to what type of family this was.
When I walked into Juanjuan’s house, I took this picture of the door. This style of door was very popular in my youth, but now is rarely seen.
The Kids Come Home from School
When they heard us approaching, Juanjuan, her younger brother, and her mother came out of the house. First, the headmaster explained the reason of our visit to Juanjuan’s mother. Mr. Ma Liya, who was by our side, quickly translated what the headmaster had said into Dongxiang.
When Juanjuan’s mother understood, she welcomed us in the local dialect.
Family's Water Reservoir
Juanjuan’s water reservoir was last repaired more than ten years ago in 1996. The layer of cement around the opening had seriously degraded, but this did not make it any less valuable to the family..
The oldest child in Juanjuan’s family is six years old, and her Mandarin is superb. She is constantly on hand to translate for her mother, and also speaks for her mother.
Juanjuan’s water reservoir, which is next to the kitchen, has retained its original appearance. This is because of the family’s financial situation; the water reservoir was not modified so as to save the cost of brick and mortar.
The green rope coming out of the water transmits the water. To collect water, you have to first power up the pump, and then the water flows out of the pipe. This is fast and convenient, and energy-conserving.
The Kitchen and Bedroom
This bedroom and the kitchen are linked together. The interior of this house suddenly brought to mind memories from many years ago.
Nailed to the wall was a piece of plastic, and there were other posters and objects hung up. The plastic is used to prevent the objects hanging on the wall from being dirtied by the soil. Three small tree stumps sitting on the ground act as chairs.
Corn stalks are piled up on the front steps, revealing the information about the year’s harvest.
When we inquired, we learned that this corn came from three mu of mountainous land, and at that moment, the vivid yellow of the corn suddenly dimmed in my eyes. This year’s harvest is worryingly low.
The repaired house is in quite good condition, and the family made some modifications to the front wall. At first glance, the wall is tall and impressive.
In recent years, the families that we have visited are of this kind of mindset: willing to spend money to modify the front of the house, but reluctant to spend money for repairing cracks in the wall.
From the front of the house, you can see a big gap between the bricks. It really only takes some time and some cement to smooth the gaps, and doing so would really improve the appearance of the wall.
The interior is still sparingly furnished with the essentials including a kang (heatable adobe sleeping platform) and stove. On the right side of the picture is the flour that Juanjuan’s mother uses to prepare steamed buns for the children.
The children come home from school for a simple lunch that consists of steamed buns or noodles, along with potatoes or cabbage. The potatoes here are even better. The children are curious about the guests that have arrived.
We asked Juanjuan and her brother and sister if they had ever taken photographs, and they said that they hadn’t. I suggested, "Why don’t I take a photo of you three?" The three siblings quickly huddled together, but their facial expressions were very serious. I demonstrated the peace sign to the children, and the three smart kids quickly emulated it.
The future will be very long and may be difficult, and I hope they can happily face life with their mother.
Juanjuan’s family raises nine sheep. We asked the mother if any were for sale, and she said only one or two. It appears that sheep are not the main source of income for the family.
Mr. Ma Liya said that her family did not dare to sell sheep unless the ewes produced more lambs, in which case they might consider selling one or two. Otherwise, they wouldn’t sell any sheep. Every year when the customary new year is celebrated, her family would not kill the sheep according to the tradition.
Many people choose vegetarian lifestyles to maintain their health. But in many places eating meat is a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.
The headmaster pointed to the structure that hardly can be considered a house and said, "Our school’s toilet used to look like this. You certainly have not seen anything like it."
I said that not only had I seen something of this condition before, but I have also experienced and used it. You have to stand on a piece of wood, constantly on guard so you don't fall down.
Well Wishes to Juanjuan's Family
We proposed taking a picture of the mother with her children in front of the new house. At this suggestion, Juanjuan’s mother looked very happy, and quickly pulled her children to her side. The family’s pose in the photo was arranged by the headmaster.
Sitting by the door was a pile of millet. The recent autumn rain has meant that there have been few sunny days, and the family was worried about the millet sprouts getting damp. Juanjuan’s mother put a layer of waterproof plastic on top of the millet to keep it dry.
Threshing the crops can wait for a sunny day.
After a point, the mother and the children needed to get back to their lives. I’m sure the father is missing his children, and we hope that he can return home soon!
Original article written by Yunyun, translated by Emma Cockerell, edited by Carolyn D.
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