It’s 7AM in the village of Yeli in the northern province of Hebi, China. 53 year olds Jia Haixia and Jia Wenqi head off to a day’s work of planting trees, a task they’ve been working on for over a decade. But planting trees is no easy task for these two, because Haixia is blind, and Wenqi has no arms.
The friendship of these two men was born from having trouble finding work due to their disabilities. Wanting to preserve the ecology of their local area and protect Yeli from flooding, the two decided to work together to accomplish a common goal. To do this, they walk to the forest every morning and cut saplings from grown trees that they’ll plant and care for until it becomes fully grown, at which point it’ll produce saplings to grow new trees as well.
Planting these trees, however, is not an easy task, but the two work together to overcome their own weaknesses: After carrying him over a river en route to the forest, Wenqi verbally guides Haixia up the trees to cut down saplings. Haixia then plants the saplings, and Wenqi works to keep them watered. It’s a slow process, but one that has paid off: Using nothing but a hammer, iron rods, and their own resourcefulness, the two estimate they’ve planted over 10,000 aspen and willow trees in a little over 10 years.
Although the two don’t earn much (the local government has exempted them from paying rent on the land due to lack of funds), they have no regrets, and no plans to stop anytime soon. “We stand on our own feet,” Mr. Wenqi told a local paper. “The fruits of our labor taste sweeter… even though we are gnawing on steam buns, we find peace in our hearts.”
Their labor may yet bear more generous fruit: According to the news agencies Hebei Haoren and Xinhua, donations have been given to help the two live a little more comfortably, and Haixia may be able to regain sight in his left eye, courtesy of a surgical procedure that doctors are willing to perform for free.
Whatever happens, though, the two remain a testament to the power of the human spirit, and how two people can accomplish more together than they ever could alone.