Meet Jia Haixia and Jia Wenqi, two 53-year-old men who share a close bond – through their friendship and their disabilities. Haixia is blind and Wenqi had both his arms amputated. But despite their disabilities, instead of being helpless, they’ve decided to go out into the world and do good work. Together, the two men have planted 10,000 trees in their rural community of Hebei, China.
10 years ago, these two men took up shovels in a fight against environmental degradation and climate change. The two of them couldn’t find jobs because of their disabilities, but they’ve managed to form a formidable team in their tree planting endeavor. “I’m his hands and he is my eyes,” says Haixia. Together, they have transformed a three hectare stretch of a riverbank into a forest.
When Wenqi was three years old, he lost both of his arms. Haixia was born with congenital cataracts that left his left eye completely blind, and then a work accident blinded him in his right. But where some see misfortune, these two men have decided to make their lives matter in a way they knew they could. So in 2001, these eco-warriors leased a large portion of the riverbank from the government to plant trees.
“Though we did not accomplish much in a dozen years, we recognize our effort,” says Mr. Haixia. “We stand on our own feet. The fruits of our labor taste sweeter. Even though we are gnawing on steam buns, we find peace in our hearts.” Adds Wenqi.