New homes mean fresh start for Wednesday, May 12 2010
By Amy Nip
Farmer Wang Xiaowen, 69, thought there was no hope left when the Sichuan earthquake collapsed his home two years ago. Today, he is happy to sit in his new house and talk about his part in a new pig-farming venture.
Wang used to live in Hongyan, a village located in the hills near Mianzhu city, Sichuan. For decades he grew herbs for medicinal use and vegetables on his farm which he sold for a living.
Talking to the South China Morning Post a year ago, the farmer said that when the quake struck, he was working on a mountain road with six others. He was unharmed but three of his companions were seriously injured by rock slides. He returned home and was devastated to find his house had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Like others in the Hongyan and Shaba villages, he moved down to new Qingquan village which is on the flat.
But as he was over 60, he was ineligible to apply for a government loan to rebuild his house. His sons did not have enough cash to buy the materials required for reconstruction.
However, Homes for Hope came to his aid. He received 12,000 yuan (HK$13,655) worth of construction materials, including steel and concrete. With a little financial support from his sons, Wang now had enough to rebuild a house.
Eagerly anticipating his new home, Wang checked on its construction twice every day for six months before he moved in. "I'm used to life downhill now. It's safer because the house is quake resistant," he said. A little piece of farmland within the village was allocated to him where he grows vegetables for his own consumption.
And age has not stopped Wang from looking for new opportunities. A pig farm was built near the village after the reconstruction, and Wang decided to become a shareholder. "I don't have many needs," he said. "I'm just satisfied that I have a home."
Walking into the home of Li Changfu and Deng Shunping in Qingquan village, pictures of the newlyweds dot the living room walls, like in so many homes around the world. The pair originally planned to tie the knot in 2009. But after the earthquake, they had no option but to delay it.
Not only was Li's house destroyed. Sheds where he kept dozens of pigs were also destroyed. "The pigs were running loose and I had to tie them to trees," Li said.
After the disaster, the 27-year-old used whatever he could get his hands on to build a temporary shelter near the ruins. He watched his house being rebuilt until it was finished last October. Three months after moving in, he married his sweetheart, Deng.
"After the houses were finished, people were getting married almost every single day," wife Deng said. "A house is a must in order for villagers to get married."
Now the couple is looking forward to reviving their pig business. Li has had up to 80 pigs in the past. Now there are about 40. "Being young is my business capital," he said.
In another corner of the village, chips, sweets and drinks are stacked on racks in a room at the Tang family house, which has become a family-run snack corner for villagers and visitors.
Yao Ping, her husband and daughter used to own a house in Hongyan village. As the daughter grew older, the three rented a house downhill to be closer to her school. The flat, rented for about 10 yuan a month, was just a fifth of the size of the new house they have just moved into.
Daughter Yao Tang, aged 10, was one of the lucky ones. She was eight when she escaped from a school building which collapsed.
Today, she does not dwell on the disaster. "I love my new home," she said. "The environment is good, the house is bigger and there are lots of classmates living nearby."
Caption: Liang Kaiquan and his wife Li Zezhen in their new home in New Qingquan village.