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Disabled workers find opportunity at community grape farm in Nantong

By ZHOU LANXU | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-04 07:32
Li Hanlin works in a vineyard at a plantation that employs disabled people in Nantong, Jiangsu province, on June 14. WANG JIA/CHINA DAILY

Editor's Note: A xiaokang society, or a moderately prosperous society, has been the dream of Chinese people for thousands of years. Our reporters travel around the country to cover the arduous efforts being made in order to realize the dream.

As the weather became hot and wet in June, grapes began to bear fruit like green pearls at a plantation in Nantong, a coastal city in Jiangsu province. Li Hanlin, 41, checked the grapes and removed the redundant or ill ones to help the others mature better.

Though skilled in his job, Li has a mild mental disability.

His competence as a grape planter is due to tutoring from his able-bodied colleagues. "I often talk with my colleagues. They teach me when I meet difficulties," said Li, who has worked at the plantation for six to seven years.

Li is one of 32 disabled employees at the plantation, which the Qinglong Bridge community in Nantong established in 2012.

Disabled workers account for about 30 percent of the work force, and each disabled employee has one able-bodied colleague as a one-to-one tutor, said Li Mingsi, Party secretary of the Qinglong Bridge community.

"Teaching the disabled planters growing skills is key to helping them get rid of poverty. Simply dishing out money would not work. We must remove the root of poverty," he said, adding that the annual remuneration of each disabled planter is about 22,000 yuan ($3,100) on average.

Apart from increasing the income of disabled residents who are able to work but could not find jobs, the plantation also helped them feel "more valued and confident by becoming self-sufficient", he said.

The plantation's practice mirrors the efforts of different levels in Jiangsu to enhance the livelihood of the less-advantaged, as an indispensable part of the moderately prosperous society.

As President Xi Jinping pointed out during a visit in Tangshan, Hebei province in 2016, no single disabled person should be left in China's pursuit of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects by this year.

The 306,000 registered low-income disabled individuals in Jiangsu had basically got rid of poverty by the end of 2019, according to the Jiangsu Disabled Persons' Federation.

The province is working to counter the impact of COVID-19 on the disabled with a focus on ensuring employment and basic living needs, which are among the key areas where the nation is determined to maintain security this year.

The provincial government rolled out 11 measures in this regard last month, including extending the subsidy policy for enterprises that hire a certain proportion of disabled employees and offering subsidies to the disabled starting a business.

Another less-advantaged group in Jiangsu-the elderly facing difficulties taking care of themselves-have also received more aid in enhancing living standards.

At Loufeng street in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, the primary-level government, local businesses and voluntary residents have set up a cooperation program to prepare and deliver meals for local seniors, named "Love Kitchen".

Starting a trial operation from December, the mechanism covers nearly 60 senior residents of advanced age who live alone and have difficulty taking care of themselves, and prices the lunch that costs 12 yuan at no more than 9 yuan.

Wu Siqin, an 84-year-old in the project, recalled lunch of braised goose, stir-fried green soybean with pork, cucumber salad with jelly, and curry beef and bean vermicelli soup.

"The meals of the Love Kitchen are better than what I could prepare. It is impossible for me to cook three dishes and one soup for one meal," Wu said.

Fu Gang, secretary of the Party working committee at Loufeng street, said the program plans to increase the coverage to six days a week from five days, with an adequate reserve fund to maintain project sustainability.

The project is funded by the government, collective assets of the street, and social donations, Fu said, adding that the advanced regional economic development has offered backing for social governance programs like the Love Kitchen.

Cang Wei in Nanjing and Wang Jia in Wuxi contributed to this story.

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