Christchurch and Gansu province in north west China have enjoyed a strong and active sister city relationship since 1984. The relationship came about at the direct request of Rewi Alley.
Since the opening up policy adopted in 1978, China has lifted over 700 million people out of poverty. Its central government has set out the goal of eradicating poverty in rural areas by the end of 2020. As one of the most poverty-stricken provinces, Gansu determined to send its government officials from provincial departments to the poorest villages to help.
Here is a heart-warming story of good deeds in Gansu. Since August 2017, the Gansu Foreign Affairs Office (GSFAO) has had an annual programme of helping two poor mountain villages in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in southwest Gansu. These areas, 2200 metres above sea level, have one of the poorest economies in China, as well as a lack of education and industry, and see lots of early aged marriages. The young men usually go to Qinghai, Xinjiang or other provinces to earn a living. Each family grows potatoes, winter wheat, and cattle.
One of the villages is Yebuwan, home to 1088 people from 232 families. Over the past two years, the GSFAO has helped the village with two million Yuan of goods and money.
Some measures of support from the GSFAO are as follows:
- Send two staff to work at the village committees, each term for two years.
- The GSFAO gives rice, flour, edible oil, candies, clothes and stationery materials to each family, and 200 – 400 Yuan around New Year’s Day.
- Installed a disaster warning broadcast system and solar power road lamps, built a small library complete with books and built a sports ground and gave facilities, like basketball stands.
- Trained young men in the skills for growing, planting and beef noodle making.
- Trained teachers at village schools.
- Donated to a school 10 PCs, printers and dozens of T-shirts.
- Provided first aid bag and booklet.
- Helped establish rural co-operatives and training of the management team. This was achieved by the GSFAO finding a businessman to donate 500,000 Yuan to the village.
The money goes to the co-op, which lends small amounts to willing families to raise cattle, sheep and chickens, which they can sell at markets.
- Helped villagers grow medicinal herbs and pine trees to sell.
- Visit aged, disabled men and women, and those who lost family members.
- Donated money to college students from the village.
- Donated 60 wheelchairs to the disabled.
- Donated goose down clothes for children.
- Donated 10 tons of chemical fertilizers.
- Supported the village committees in cleaning and whitewashing the walls of the houses along the roads, and painting pictures and writing slogans to encourage the rural families to work hard and love the country and rejoice always.
- Invited eight doctors and nurses from Lanzhou University First Hospital to give free and common medical examination and medicine.
- Donated three tons of coal to village committees for heating in winter.
- Helped apply for government housing funds to repair and rebuild houses in danger.
- The upper Party committee gave a gift of tea to all villagers as a gift at the Party’s anniversary day.
- Repaired office rooms of the village committees.
- Built a concrete road from village to city, grew trees, and collected rubbish.
In addition to the two million Yuan of goods and money given by the GSFAO over the last two years, funding to support these activities has also come from businessmen and foundations in Gansu, Hong Kong, Macao and other overseas Chinese, as well as foreign foundations.
Each GSFAO staff member links with two families, and visits the village every season, usually four times a year. Each time they spend about 7-8 hours on the road, and about 3 hours visiting families. They don’t live in the village, and pay their own lunch and dinner. The staff members work with the village committees and help with most jobs.
The staff are paid a stipend of meals and transport and mobile fees, in addition to their monthly office pay. They live in the town government building and go to work in the villages every workday. At the weekend they take the bus to Lanzhou if there is no temporary work. This is called grass root working experience that will benefit their work career in government.
Before August 2017, the GSFAO supported another two villages for a couple of years, where they did similar work. 2020 is the year the Chinese government has promised to get rid of absolute poverty and realize a well-off society in both rural and urban areas. The central government has made it clear it will not cease in its efforts to support poor rural families after 2020. As part of this, the GSFAO will continue to send staff and support the village to make them stronger and better. It is expected to continue for several years.