Thanks to poverty alleviation efforts, targeted assistance and support from relevant government departments, Zhenghai village, a once impoverished village located in the southeast of central China's Henan Province, has experienced tremendous changes and taken on a beautiful new look in recent years.
Due to poor infrastructure and a lack of industries, residents of Zhenghai village, Yucheng county, Henan Province used to be plagued by an inconvenient and poor life. Many of them had worked in the more developed regions of the country for a living.
With the country securing a complete victory in its fight against poverty and making solid achievements in the implementation of its rural revitalization strategy, life in Zhenghai village has changed for the better.
"The bubble tea I just ordered was delivered as I watch short videos on my phone."
"Bro, your bubble tea is here. Come get it!" The owner of a beverage shop in Shaji township shouted into the house of a young villager surnamed Zhang while riding an electric scooter.
Zhang was watching short videos on Chinese online video-sharing platform Douyin as the beverage was delivered to his door.
"The bubble tea I just ordered was delivered as I watch short videos on my phone. I haven't even finished one video after I placed the order. How fast is that?” Zhang said, opening his door to receive the beverage.
Like Zhang, everyone in Zhenghai village enjoys a five-minute life cycle. They can ride an electric scooter to any place they go within five minutes of their homes, be it to buy vegetables, go to a fair, shop, send children to school, go to a clinic, or work in the fields.
When they don't want to go out to eat, they can order takeout online, which can also be delivered to their homes within five minutes.
Such a convenient life was unimaginable to them years ago.
"We didn't have paved roads before. The dirt roads were rough. And a ride on an electric scooter on the roads felt as bumpy as sitting in a sedan chair. Our homes are not far from such places as the vegetable market, school, and clinic, but it took us nearly 20 minutes to cover a distance of 1 kilometer or even several hundred meters," an elderly villager surnamed Wang told People's Daily Overseas Edition.
Wang still vividly remembers how difficult it was to walk on those dirt roads in the rain.
"Children couldn't walk to school on rainy days. Parents had to carry children on their backs to school. And elderly villagers could easily slip and fall to the ground even in their rain boots. It was very dangerous," Wang recalled.
Fortunately, things started to change at the beginning of 2015, when Zhenghai village was designated as a key village for Yucheng county's endeavor to promote development-driven poverty alleviation, and the publicity department of the county’s Party committee paired up with Zhenghai village to provide targeted assistance and support for the village in its development.
Building roads was at the top of the agenda for the village then, with most of the villagers agreeing that "To get rid of poverty, we must build roads first."
With the support of the publicity department, the village was granted nearly 1 million yuan ($140, 300) for relevant projects in recent years, which has led to the completion of about 10 kilometers of new roads, according to Zhu He, an official dispatched to serve as the first secretary of Zhenghai village to boost poverty eradication efforts on the front line.
Aside from new roads, the village has also built a cultural square, where villagers can enjoy shows; installed basketball hoops and ping-pong tables, where children can exercise after school; and upgraded public toilets and toilets in people's homes. The power grid of the village has also been upgraded so that they can enjoy safer and a more stable supply of electricity.
"The CPC has done good deeds for us," Xu Xingzhi, a senior resident of Zhenghai village, said with heartfelt gratitude.
"I can work near my home and take care of my old folks and children at the same time."
"Everything goes so well now. I can work near my home and take care of my old folks and children at the same time. I earn more than 5,000 yuan a month by making waterproof clothing. And I can go home around lunchtime and at night to cook and take care of my old folks and children. I'm keeping a good balance between work and family now," Wei Su, a local woman who works at a waterproof clothing factory in Zhenghai village, said with a big smile.
The waterproof clothing factory plays an important role in the poverty alleviation efforts of Zhenghai village. Wei said that before the factory was established, local villagers didn't have any source of income except to grow wheat. Many people had become migrant workers for better salaries, but that meant they couldn't take care of their parents and children.
A woman works at a waterproof clothing factory in Zhenghai village. (Photo/Internet Information Office of Yucheng)
The factory enjoys booming business, which enables it to provide jobs for a considerable number of people, said Wang Songling, deputy head of Shaji township.
Villagers not only get good salaries, but enjoy flexible working hours in the factory, according to Wang, who explained that the salaries of employees of the factory are calculated according to the amount of work done. That means villagers can come to work after handling their family affairs. Some people in positions such as salespersons don't need to go to the factory to work, since they can deal with orders with a computer and mobile phone at home, Wang said.
"These salespeople can make more than 10,000 yuan in a good month," Wang added.
Corydalis yanhusuo, an important Chinese medicinal herb, has also become one of their sources of income. In the herb’s harvest season, villagers are paid to dig tubers of the herb. They usually earn tens of yuan for half a day's work.
Efforts have also been made to boost the development of cattle farming in the village, help villagers grow high-quality grapes, build nearly 20 vegetable greenhouses, and enable once impoverished villagers to benefit from cooperatives featuring targeted poverty alleviation.
"Though I can't go out to work due to an illness, I can raise sheep in my yard. And one sheep can be sold for several thousand yuan," said Xu Xingzhi, who explained that the villager has provided technical support in animal husbandry for him and guaranteed that he can apply for an interest-free loan if he needs money.
With thriving industries and guarantees of income, local villagers are getting increasingly prosperous.
"Students are growing up. They should certainly get nutritious meals."
"Look here. The dishes have both vegetables and meat, and the menu changes every day," Xu Xing'an, a teacher who has worked at the elementary school in Zhenghai village for more than 30 years, told People's Daily Overseas Edition happily as he slopped food for students.
"Our rural children have grown taller and stronger since the implementation of our country's nutrition improvement program for compulsory-education students in rural areas," Xu said.
The program he mentioned means a lot to local children. Before the program was launched, students of the elementary school had to take their own lunch to school. As many of them were "left-behind children" whose parents had left their hometown to work in urban areas, the food they brought to school was limited in variety and lacked meat. Additionally, since they didn't have any device to heat their lunches, they had to eat cold food.
In 2017, Yucheng county bid out the lunch services for elementary and middle schools of rural areas, and the winning catering company started to provide nutritious and tasty lunch for students. In the same year, the elementary school of Zhenghai village built a new canteen, which offers children a more comfortable and spacious dining environment.
"Now our children not only enjoy a warm lunch every day, but also have meat included in their meals," said Xu Tao, headmaster of the elementary school.
"Some of our employees are the parents of local students. By hiring parents, we have not only contributed to the employment in the county, but dispelled parents' concerns over the quality of the food," said a manager of the catering company that provides lunch for students.
The manager said the company has strict requirements and follows high standards in food preparation, and talks to teachers and students regularly to adjust its menu, so that students can enjoy more tasty, nutritious, and healthy lunch.
"Students are growing up. They should certainly get nutritious meals. Some children can have several steamed buns at lunch. They said the food at school is yummier than the meals they have at home," Xu Tao said with excitement.
Besides warm and nutritious lunch, the classrooms are equipped with multimedia equipment to help students learn. They also use various kinds of sports equipment, and read a wide variety of books. Their life in school is becoming more and more wonderful with each passing day.