Charity shows Zhuhai's farmers 'how to fish'
2013-December-9 Source:
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(Photo from

(Photo from

(Photo from

The Yaxi Village Christmas Fund Raiser -- Helping Others to Help Themselves -- raised around 60,000 yuan ($9,864) for the villagers at The Factory bar at Huafa Century City in Wanzai from Saturday afternoon into the wee hours. The holiday charity event featured family games and crafts, food and drinks, an auction and raffle of donated items. In addition, villagers were selling their own organic farm produce.

Afternoon activities were based on a family day with games. Little ones were attracted by delicate snacks, cheerfully smashing stacked tin cans, having their faces painted in red and green or searching for candy in a mysterious treasure case. Other activities included garden seeds with one 5 yuan coupon, homemade cake sale and creation cookies and crafts for families to taste and DIY yummy snacks. Organic vegetables including basil, rocket salad, Italian lettuce, Dutch parsley and many others grown by the villagers were on sale. There were also Zumba dance and self-defence fun classes to entertain participants. Many people bought raffle tickets for 20 yuan and waited for the exciting raffle draw and auction in the evening. Chinese and westerners, volunteers and onlookers, young and old, were feted with pleasure at the party.

In the evening, the raffle offered 170 prizes including vouchers from different restaurants and companies and an auction of donated high-valued items such as an 1-hour helicopter flight simulator, the only one in China, costing 11,000 yuan ($1,808), one driving session in a twin-seat car donated by the Zhuhai International Circuit, live bands and a DJ, and Huafa Complex businesses selling food and donating 30 percent of the proceeds to the village.

Yaxi Village in Jiangmen City is a 45-minute drive north of Zhuhai. Established in 1928 as a leper sanatorium, the village now has 68 people, most of whom are former Hansen disease sufferers, and their families, and each of them obtains around 300 yuan ($49) per month from the government.

Tonetto Roberto, an Italian who majored in computer science and later learned techniques to help Hansen disease sufferers, has worked there as a volunteer and project co-operator of the Hong Kong-based International Volunteers for Development Foundation for 14 years. He found local people to plan projects for those who need artificial limbs, specially made shoes or child schooling for the reference of the foundation, and imported European seeds for the villagers to grow organic vegetables and herbs. Early this year, he met Chris Claessens, executive director of The Garden and co-operator of The Factory, both restaurants located in Huafa Century City in Wanzai, and he talked about the villagers and their crops.

Chris was then looking forward to cooperating with local farmers in growing organic vegetables for his restaurants. He visited the village and ordered crops on a two-week basis.

Five families got involved in organic vegetable farming at the beginning in their small gardens and backyards, which were dispersed and hard to ensure consistency of harvest. In response, Chris worked with Roberto and the villagers to restructure the land and allocate clear crops for specific plots so as to make the farming more professional, easier and better.

Unfortunately, heavy rainfall in March, April and May this year washed away the crops and they had to start all over, Chris regretted. As a result, he realised the villagers needed to improve farming facilities and equipment such as mechanical ploughs, local-made greenhouses, a new well, a water pump and an irrigation system, which cost approximately 70,000 to 80,000 yuan ($1,151 to $1,315), said Chris.

When he came back from the village, Chris discussed the ideas with the Zhuhai Ladies Club, an expatriate organisation founded 10 years ago. In response, Claire Tyler, Daniela Thayer, Isabella Valter and other women met, contacted friends, made arrangements for the event and made it happen before most westerners leave for Christmas.

"It's just a beginning. We'll buy all the materials -- machine, greenhouse, get it delivered there, drill the well, make the water pump and so on. We're not giving them the fish, but giving them the fishing rod," explained Chris.

Once the new crops are available, a small farmers' market may be organised near the restaurants every second Sunday beginning in March or April, and the farmers can come up Sunday afternoons to sell vegetables and herbs, Chris noted. "We're kind of the centre or the bridge between the village and consumers."

Some westerners have been to the village several times and taken pictures of the small gardens, land to be expanded, the people and their simple residences as well as a small hospital and factory. The pictures were hung on site with one stating: "You can see from this photo, there is still a long way to go. Imagine this area of land after we have been able to help them by donating today."

"This is a good opportunity to show the real people. It's OK to touch them and talk to them. The disease is gone. So it's nice to help and nice to see them smile," said Isabella.

The first time for them to sell vegetables in town, the three villagers from Yaxi said they felt quite happy to have sold out almost all their crops in the evening.


Editor: Kate
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