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Looking at the lush, green, tree-filled stretch of land north of the Yeli Village in Sunzhuang Township, Jingxing County, Hebei, China, it's hard to imagine that just 12 years ago, those plains were filled with nothing but rocks and weeds. This miraculous transformation is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of an elderly blind man named Jia Haixia and his friend Jia Wenqi, a double amputee with no arms. For more than 10 years, the duo have been planting thousands of trees in an effort to protect and preserve the natural ecology of the land surrounding their village.
53-year-old Haixia was born with congenital cataracts that left his left eye blind. Then, in 2000, he lost his other eye in an accident at work, leaving him completely without sight. Wenqi, also 53, lost both his arms in an accident when he was just 3 years old. After Haixia became fully blind, the two friends were having trouble securing jobs, so they decided to lease over eight acres of land near the riverbank from the local government with the goal of planting trees for future generations. While working towards this noble objective, Haixia and Wenqi have also been able to help protect their village from flooding, while also earning a modest income from government funding.
“Our tree planting may not have much substantial benefit for the present generation, but it leaves a green environment to the next one,” Haixi said. “We are physically disabled but mentally healthy. We have this big dream in our heart to leave a stretch of green to our children.”