China Now Community Project
Investigator: Zhou Zhongming English:Cammie Brennan
Stone Gateway Village
Population: 15, 176
Families: 3, 630
Minority population: 4,056
Average income per family: 30-100 dollars a year
This spring, due to the winter storm disaster, Stone Gateway suffered great loss. Two volunteers sponsored by our sister-organization Shimenkan Connection, Mr. Zhou and Dennis Xu, both went to bring relief items, assess the damage, and research possible solutions for short and long-term relief as well as options for community rebuilding.
The following is a photo account of Mr. Zhou and Mr. Xu’s trip to Stone Gate. To get to this remote village they went first to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, then six hours by train to Zhaotang, and finally one hour by bus to Zhongshui to meet a truck, bus or SUV to Stone Gateway (a three to six hour drive, depending on the conditions.)
As of February 5th of this year, the snowstorm had already affected 352,000 people, causing architectural, agricultural and natural damages in excess of 2
zzm007 Villagers walking back to Shimenkan with goods collected from Sichuan
zzm001 Volunteer’s shoe stuck in the mud due to the terrible road conditions
zzm023 Mr. Zhou and Mr. Xu arrive at a village between Guiyang and Zhaotang
zzm026 Bus ticket and bus from Zhaotang to Zhangshui
zzm033 City of Zhoutangi; at this altitude, the weather was relatively mild and there was little damage from the snow, though it is just hours from Stone Gate Village.
zzm046 A local volunteer waited in Zhaotang while Mr. Zhou and MR. Xu went directly to the community church to retrieve 6,660 pounds of winter clothes. These clothes, donated by Chinese citizens nationwide through the Shimenkan Connection clothes drive, were ready for delivery to Stone Gate.
The Shimenkan Connection volunteers visited an elderly woman, once a Stone Gate Village resident, who now lives in Zhaotang and collects garbage and recyclables in order to survive. Mr. Zhou paid half a year of her rent and gave her some of the donated warm clothing.
volunteer Mr. Yang, Miao minority, enjoys meeting with Shimenkan Connection
volunteers Mr. Zhou and Mr. Xu. As a Miao script expert, Mr. Yang provides
Shimenkan Connection and CNCP with invaluable information concerning Miao
resources, such as the book of traditional Miao songs, writings and documents
6,660 pounds of winter
clothes donated by citizens from all over China through the Shimenkan Connection
clothes drive, waiting in Zhaotang for delivery to Stone Gate. Mr. Xu and Mr.
Zhou arrive late from Zhongzhui with the load of donated clothing.
zzm070 The next morning, Mr. Xu and Mr. Zhou prepare the rented truck for the trip to Stone Gate Village.
zzm076 Volunteers leave Zhongzhui, which was relatively undamaged from the snow storm, for the long trip to Stone Gate Village.
route to Stone Gate Village, the weather conditions continue to deteriorate as
the elevation increases. It became necessary to stop several times to clear the
road and salt the windshield.
zzm091The volunteers finally arrive in Shimenkan around 9:00 pm after an arduous 6-hour trip; Mrs. Ma, a local leader in the community, is waiting for them. The weather is noticeably worse here with snow on the ground and ice on the windows of unheated homes.
zzm094 The Village of Stone Gate as seen from the path to the leprosy colony.
zzm105 Lighting a fire under this truck warmed it enough for the engine to start the next morning.
zzm111 The village lost 80% of their trees, causing three homes to collapse. In addition, a large portion of their walnut trees were lost, all but decimating next year’s production of this valuable export crop.
zzm128 The volunteers met with the governor of Stone Gate Village before they went shopping for 17 quilts with money donated from Shimenkan Connection. In order to find enough quilts, the two volunteers had to visit every shop in the village.
Once the quilts had been
bought and organized, Mr. Zhou and Mr. Xu, along with several Stone Gate
volunteers, made the treacherous 3-hour climb to Stone Gate Village’s leprosy
zzm135 Leprosy Colony as seen from afar.
zzm137 Volunteers arrive at the Leprosy Colony and meet the local leaders and leprosy patients, as well as their families and fellow residents.
zzm139 Mrs. Ma arranges the quilts and residents for distribution.
zzm141 Patients, families and residents receive their donated quilts.
zzm150 Entrance to Stone Gate Village on the return path from the leprosy colony.
zzm152 Stone Gate Village homes.
zzm154 Stone Gate Village church
zzm141 Volunteers take the path to Mrs. Ma’s home village, Xinzai, a suburb of Stone Gate Village
zzm155 Mrs. Ma’s house in Xinzai (suburb of Stone Gate Village)
Each family in Xinzai has approximately 2.5 mu, (1 mu=675 square meters, or less than half an acre) of land on which they grow walnuts and tobacco for export. The corn and potatoes grown on the remainder of the land serves as fodder for the animals, the seed crop for next year, and a year’s supply of food for a family of four. If there is anything left the family can attempt to sell some to make a little profit.
Mrs. Ma’s husband shows the volunteers around his village. Due to the extended cold weather and isolated location he has developed chronic rheumatism, which is now affecting his heart.
zzm130 Mrs. Ma’s family in front of their family home with Mr. Xu and their oldest son.
zzm133 Homes in the Stone Gate region have one coal-fueled stove used for heat, cooking , and preparing food for the livestock.
Ma and her husband discuss conditions with the Shimenkan Connection volunteers.
In the Stone Gate region 80%
of last year’s potato crop has frozen due to the storm. This leaves only 20%
for food, fodder for the animals, and spring time planting. By this time
(March) the tobacco crop should already be harvested and the potato seeds should
be in the ground. Due to the weather conditions neither of these have been
accomplished. While the villagers have enough to eat for the time being, the
late planting season will cause a drastic shortage of food and money in the
coming months. The bus that shuttles villagers from the suburbs to Stone Gate
Village on market day is still able to run, due to chain-snow tires, but there
is little other transportation that can transverse the muddy and deteriorating
roads. Consequently in the village inflation has sky-rocketed; the cost of
meat, rice, vegetables and coal has more than doubled since January, leaving
many villagers hungry and destitute.
zzm198 These rotten potatoes cooked into fodder for the livestock is inedible even for the pigs and oxen. Between Xinzai’s eighty families, eight oxen and 70-80 pigs have already died due to weather conditions and malnutrition. Each family only raises one to two pigs for slaughter and meat each year. The oxen are used to farm the land. With livestock dying and the price of meat continuing to double, villagers are facing a serious meat shortage, not just for the time being but in the coming years.
Frigid weather and snow
continue to plague the residents and volunteers in the Stone Gate region.
Xu collects water from the Ma family’s well, which was built by Oxfam in 1996.
zzm485 Despite the poor weather conditions, Mr. Xu and Mr. Zhou, along with Mrs. Ma, decide to visit an extremely isolated suburb of Xinzai called Tongjie to assess the damage and deliver relief supplies. Tongjie is one of the poorest villages in the region and one that even Mrs. Ma has never visited.
zzm539 Mrs. Ma leads the volunteers through forest and mountain paths to reach nearby villages. The path is nearly impassable due to the downed tress, poor road conditions and adverse weather.
zzm554 All potatoes in the household are frozen.
zzm456 Children playing in the snow.
zzm532 This family consists of two children whose parents have both died and their elderly grandparents. Last year they sold 10,000 potatoes for 20 dollars to buy farm chemicals for this year’s crop. Now 90% of their potatoes have frozen, leaving no food, fodder or seeds for this year’s planting season.
Mrs. Ma and the volunteers
continue to visit other neighboring villages and give them rice.
Mrs. Ma and the volunteers
continue to visit other homes and give them rice.
Mrs. Ma and the volunteers prepare to distribute donated warm clothing to Xinzai and other villagers. Some people walked 3-4 hours in order to receive the donation.
zzm409 Mrs. Ma and the volunteers arranged the clothing into piles; villagers picked lottery numbers and could pick one pile of clothes. Exchanging them for the right size was up to the villagers.
zzm437 Villagers trek back home with the donated clothing.
zzm445 Mrs. Ma records the data of the donated clothing and catalogs the villagers who received assistance.
zzm452 Mrs. Ma collects her own share of the donated clothing, though the volunteers noted she gave the three best sweaters to fellow villagers.
zzm301 Mrs. Ma leads the Shimenkan Connection volunteers to the poorest village in the Stone Gate Village, Tongjie, a village she herself hasn’t yet visited due to it remoteness.
zzm306 A Tongjie villager met them halfway, but she had no galoshes or socks. Mrs. Ma lent the villager her boots so they could cross the icy stream.
zzm313 Path to Tongjie.
altitude and stress of the hike often drove Mrs. Ma to her knees to take a rest.
The Tongjie primary school suffers from serious deterioration. The teacher that scores lowest on the certification exam is sent to remote Tongjie to teach.
zzm359 The villagers themselves created the working electricity network by siphoning power from Stone Gate Village. To get water, however, villagers have to walk 2 miles to get water for cooking, drinking, and watering livestock.
zzm380 Mrs. Ma and the volunteers head back to Xinzai.
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