Discover China: "Iron man" has new lease on life with crop paintings
LANZHOU, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Holding a pair of tweezers, Chen Yanguang carefully adds little round beans to a piece of paper as he crafts a "crop painting." These paintings are made of various crops and can fetch up to 1,000 yuan (140 U.S. dollars) each.
"My works are quite popular," says Chen, 43.
But he cannot sit for a long time. He has to repeatedly stand up while painting for long periods of time.
"My artificial spine and heels will give me pain if I sit or stand for too long," he says.
Chen is a disabled man in the township of Huaniu in the city of Tianshui, northwest China's Gansu Province. With his heels and spine remade from artificial bone, Chen calls himself an "iron man" on crutches.
After being seriously injured in an accident five years ago, he was confined to bed for years.
"I lost my job and confidence," he said.
After multiple surgeries, he could walk on crutches following physical therapy but still felt like a burden to his family.
"I felt like the sky had fallen. I had no job and the whole family solely depended on my wife. It was so frustrating," he says. "That was the darkest phase of my life."
Chen says his wife had to work three part-time jobs to support their family of six.
China has about 85 million people with disabilities. Governments at all levels across the country have rolled out supportive policies to help them.
In July 2019, a workshop was jointly established by the local government and a company called Tianshui Ganlin E-commerce Co., Ltd. The workshop aims to improve the lives of poverty-stricken and low-income disabled people.
The local government invested about 1.53 million yuan for the recovery and the employment of disabled people at the workshop. The company is responsible for providing training programs, job opportunities, free accommodation and daycare.
"Many disabled people of legal working age are capable of and willing to work, and we create opportunities for them," says Xia Chenyang, with the Disabled Persons' Federation of Tianshui's Maiji District.
While taking care of its employees, the company also tries to find online and offline channels to sell the employees' works to increase their salaries, according to Wang Juan, general manager of the company.
Chen signed up with the workshop after its establishment. After 15 days of training, he began to create digital oil paintings as well as crop paintings at the workshop, with a monthly income of 2,000 yuan.
With previous working experience as an interior designer, he pours all his talent into his new job.
"My sense of inferiority and my fear faded away," says Chen. "I saw hope."
Currently, about 140 disabled people from nearby villages work at the workshop, doing jobs such as product packaging, souvenir-making and machine-parts processing, with salaries ranging from 1,500 yuan to 2,000 yuan per month.
"Money is not the most important thing. We cherish the opportunity to work and live with people we identify with, and we don't have to deal with prejudice," says Luo Jianhong, one of Chen's coworkers.
Chen now works five days a week and makes new friends. He goes home and reunites with his family on weekends, bringing handmade presents to his children.
"My wife and I no longer quarrel, and I have found a way to support my family. This job changed my life."
Months ago, he started his second career as a vlogger on Kuaishou, a short-video and livestreaming platform. By sharing his daily life at the workshop, he has created a big fanbase.
Because of China's campaign to promote the employment of disabled people, the number of impoverished people with disabilities dropped from more than 7 million to about 500,000 at the end of 2019.
Recently, barrier-free elevators have been installed in the dormitory where Chen and his colleagues live, and the company plans to purchase a shuttle bus to take them to and from work.
"Life is hopeful," Chen says. Enditem