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'Happy' Project Gives Mothers Pride

Great mathematician Archimedes said: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."


In China, millions of mothers are struggling to find a fulcrum to raise their poverty-stricken families.


The Program of Happiness, a project especially set to help impoverished mothers, has helped them secure the fulcrum, not only lending them money but also paving the way to self-support.


Launched a decade ago in Beijing by the non-profit making China Population Welfare Foundation, the China Family Planning Association and the China Population Daily, the program has funded about 150,000 impoverished mothers with an accumulative 260 million yuan (US$32.1 million) in 341 counties throughout the country by the end of 2004. As a result, some 600,000 people have benefited from the program.


According to an evaluation team composed of experts from Tsinghua University, 89.5 percent of the beneficiaries' families successfully got out of the poverty trap.


Liu Shuyun is one of the beneficiaries.


Living in a remote village in Kalaqin Qi of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the 36-year-old woman and her husband concentrated all their efforts on growing crops on their 10-mu (0.67 hectares) of land before 2003.


"It all depended on the weather then. At harvest time, the per capita income of our family could reach some 700 yuan (US$86.3) each year. But the income would be dramatically reduced in fruitless seasons by adverse weather, after which we could hardly maintain our daily lives," said Liu in a telephone interview with China Daily.


To take care of bed-ridden parents-in-law, two young daughters and a young sister and brother-in law, Liu had borrowed a total of more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,233) from relatives and friends by early 2003.


However, their life has changed significantly since she received the aid from the Program of Happiness in April 2003.


With the help of the program, she signed a long-term contract to raise ducks for a company in a neighboring county, which exports frozen ducks abroad.


To start the business, the program lent her 10,000 yuan (US$1,233) and helped her get another 10,000 yuan bank loan. She has since borrowed an additional 10,000 yuan.


"Each time we bought 2,000 baby ducks from the company and sold them in less than two months. We can earn more than 10,000 yuan net profit each year now," Liu said happily.


She has nearly paid back all the loans now, and as consequence "life will become better and better," she said.


An increasing number of mothers like Liu will benefit from the program in the coming years since it will attract more attention from the public, said Yu Dehui, deputy director of China Population Welfare Foundation.


(China Daily July 29, 2005)

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