Gu Haixia is blind. He was born with cataracts in his left eye, and lost his right one in an accident at work in 2000. His friend, Jia Wenqi, has no arms, having lost them in an accident when he was only three years old. Now both 53, they have definitely each faced their share of obstacles in life. Yet none of this stops the two friends from doing something absolutely incredible.
Flash back to about 10 years ago, and you’d see that the land to the north of the Yeli Village in Heibei, China, was nothing but a barren stretch of rocks and weeds. The government had been promising to plant trees there, but so far, no one had done anything. Meanwhile, Gu and Jia, who live in the area, were unable to find work because of their disabilities.
Instead of finding work, the duo leased the land from the government with the promise of planting the trees. Planting trees is too physical a job for these two, you say? Not even close.
Jia deftly uses his foot to pour water over a new sapling.
Instead of buying saplings, Gu and Jia take cuttings from existing trees and plant them. This means that the blind Gu climbs trees with the guidance of Jia from the ground, and cuts off a bough. Then he climbs down, a hole is dug, and the stick is planted. Jia takes over watering.
It’s not an easy job for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for these two. However, in the face of these challenges, the two men have come up with some incredible—and touching—strategies.
“I am his hands,” explains Gu, “[and] he is my eyes. We are good partners.”
The pair set off every morning at 7 a.m., carrying a hammer and an iron rod. To get to the planting area, Jia has to carry Gu across a shallow but fast-moving stream. Then, they collect branches from healthy trees and plant them elsewhere, carrying the sticks together.
Both men have their disabilities, but they step in and provide for each other.
Today, the pair have planted more than 10,000 trees on the land, which covers over eight acres. Besides turning the once-barren landscape into a lush forest that attracts a number of birds and other creatures, the trees also help prevent soil erosion and soak up rainwater, which in turn helps prevent flooding in their village.
Their actions have earned them some money from the government, and they’ve also received donations to help with their pensions. Gu may even be able to have the sight in his left eye restored for free, thanks to an offer from a team of doctors, according to Xinhua News.
Their journey is long… and can sometimes be hard.
…but they make it through together.
Even without the recognition, Gu and Jia have no plans to stop planting trees, and are modestly proud of their accomplishments. “Though we did not accomplish much in a dozens [sic] years, we recognize our effort,” Gu says.
“We stand on our own feet,” Jia adds. “The fruits of our labor taste sweeter. Even though we are gnawing on steam buns, we find peace in our hearts.”