Mountain villagers embrace new life in modern settlement

Xinhua, July 12, 2023
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When she was young, Zhang Xuelian never thought about leaving the deep mountains where she was born and raised, on the outskirts of Haidong, northwest China's Qinghai Province.

That all changed one summer evening five years ago, when she was confronted by a combination of sickness and poverty. That evening, her second child was delirious with a fever and her husband was out at work. She had to push a handcart carrying her child across rugged terrain for two hours to reach a health center.

The child survived, but Zhang was faced with an agonizing realization. With the family's meager income, they could never afford a house in town, forcing them to live a life of insecurity, far from services like healthcare.

When news of a poverty-alleviation relocation program reached the village, Zhang was elated by the prospect of a new life.

From 2019 to 2020, 6,770 residents from 105 villages, including Zhang's family, bid farewell to their shabby houses in the mountains and were relocated to the Qilidian resettlement community in Ledu District, Haidong.

"Thanks to government subsidies, it cost only 10,000 yuan (about 1,400 U.S. dollars) for my family of five to move to the new residence with an area of 85 square meters," Zhang said.

In 2018, the local government invested 490 million yuan to build the community, which boasts a kindergarten, a nursing home, a hospital, a square and a farmer's market.

Just months after the resettlement of Zhang's family, her husband suffered an ischemic stroke, which resulted in hemiplegia, and he has since become bedridden. Her mother-in-law also has disabilities and chronic health conditions that require medication.

Learning about this dire situation, the community committee assigned a family doctor to provide her husband and mother-in-law with regular medical attention.

The community committee enrolled Zhang in cooking courses and offered her a job at the canteen of a school in the community. Earning a monthly salary of 3,000 yuan, Zhang is now able to support her family.

By the end of 2020, more than 9.6 million people like Zhang, equivalent to the population of a medium-sized country, had been relocated from inhospitable areas to resettlement communities.

With improved living conditions and livelihoods, the previously impoverished people have experienced a transformative shift in their lives that would have taken generations of efforts to accomplish in the past.

Zhang sees life in Qilidian as a new start. "It's an opportunity for me to keep moving forward in life, and to be hopeful and grateful," she said.