In Habitat China’s first-ever partnership with Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, 20 families can create a better life through secure housing.
Come June 2020, 20 Yi ethnic families will move to apartment units under a partnership between Habitat for Humanity China and the local government in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture. With the donor’s funding and technical support from Habitat China, the families will have secure homes with improved access to clean water and safe sanitation.
This marks Habitat China’s first-ever partnership in the mountainous prefecture ― home to over 2 million Yi ethnic people ― in Sichuan province. “Although we’ve been working in Sichuan since 2008, it is our first time to venture into the Liangshan area,” said Yang Hanmei, team leader in Habitat China’s Sichuan office. “We hope to provide financial and technical support as well as other resources such as housing-related knowledge to the future homeowners according to their needs,” she added.
Safe housing is among the basic needs that the local government is addressing as part of a nationwide poverty alleviation drive. “Local people also need to get used to living in apartments instead of building houses separately on the top of the hills,” said Wang Yonggui, director of the Poverty Alleviation and Development Bureau of Liangshan in a January 2020 media interview. China aims to eliminate absolute poverty by the end of 2020.
For decades, the ethnic people in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture have been living in windowless mud-and-wood houses that are dark and damp. A majority of these structures has been classified as unsafe by the local government.
As the Yi families share their living quarters with livestock, they face health risks due to the unhygienic conditions. Isolated in the mountainous region, they lack adequate access to transportation and medical care as well as education for their children.
To address the Yi ethnic people’s needs, the local government has designated a residential zone near the center of the Xide county. Subsidies are provided to the villagers to encourage them to relocate from the mountain. Many of the villagers cannot afford the cost of moving though they are aware of the benefits of safe housing that is close to schools and new jobs. The Yi ethnic people make a living by taking on temporary jobs or grazing. Some are not fluent in Mandarin, further limiting the work they could do. What they earn are just enough for their daily expenses with very little savings set aside.
With funding from Caterpillar Foundation, Habitat China is supporting the construction of two residential buildings in coordination with the local government. Habitat China’s staff are also serving as technical supervisors for the construction that began in December 2019.
In the meantime, the 20 families are getting ready for “high-rise” living. After the homeownership agreements were signed, Habitat China organized a workshop to help the families familiarize themselves with the features of their 70-square-meter apartment that has two bedrooms and a living room.
The workshop covered topics such as fixing a leaky ceiling and daily maintenance including advice on protection against electrical shocks and against disposing of kitchen waste into the drain.
To cultivate hygienic habits, the workshop instructor taught the participants how to keep the apartments clean and what to do with household waste ― key concerns are given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The training is useful and necessary for us. It will be my folks’ first time living in an apartment and that is totally different from the house they live in now. To be honest, I am excited and very much looking forward to it,” said Hong, 45, head of Luoba village.
“We are thankful for Habitat for Humanity China’s great support to improve the living conditions of people in our town,” said Sha Wenlin, a local leader in Xide County, Bajiu Township. “I am sure our collaboration with Habitat will enable the families to have safer homes, followed by a better life and personal development.”
This partnership is part of a larger Habitat project in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture that is supported by the Caterpillar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Caterpillar Inc. Habitat China will also build the capacity and boost livelihood options through training local masons in disaster-resilient construction skills that are particularly relevant in earthquake-prone Sichuan province.
A strong supporter since 2017, Caterpillar Foundation has partnered with Habitat China to build safe, secure homes with 62 families in Sichuan Province.
Habitat for Humanity has been working in China for 18 years and helped 17,722 families to create a better life through housing in the fiscal year ended in March, 2020. Currently working in four provinces and Shanghai, Habitat started its operations in Sichuan in response to the devastating earthquake in 2008. Learn more at habitatchina.org or connect with us at habitatchina.org/wechat/