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Happiness Project Helps Needy Rural Mothers

Forty-year-old Jing Guiqin, a country woman in north China's Hebei Province, is extremely happy these days.

Sharing for years a 20-squaremeter adobe house with four other family members, she now owns five tile-roofed houses.

She has also acquired a loan of 3,000 yuan (US$370) to start her own business.

So far she has not only paid off the loan but also built her own houses. Her two daughters have already entered a high school without economic difficulties.

Jing said all these blessings are due to the central government's Happiness Project, and she is just one among millions of beneficiaries.

A public welfare program initiated by the China Population Welfare Foundation and Family Planning Association of China, the project has aided 140,000 needy one-child mothers within 10 years.

Launched in 1995, the program has been providing small loans and personalized training for poor, rural mothers from one-child families.

"Providing personalized training for needy rural mothers has been proved workable. This has empowered them to shake off poverty by themselves," said Zhao Baige, vice chairman of the State Family Planning Commission.

"The project is of great significance to the sustainable development of China's poverty alleviation work," added Zhao.

The program has so far input 260 million yuan (US$32 million) in its 341 offices in China's 29 provinces and regions.

In these areas, the average annual income of rural mothers has risen from 840.5 yuan to 1931.1 yuan after they received help from the program, according to a recent sample survey by Beijing-based Qinghua University.

The official said the project has received up to 35.33 million yuan (US$4.35 million) in donations from home and abroad during the past five years.

Some international non-governmental organizations such as the Ford Foundation as well as local governments constitute the major source of the donation.

China still has 26 million people living in abject poverty in its rural areas, acknowledged Zhang Lei, a senior official with the China Association for Poverty Alleviation and Development, among whom about five million are married women.

(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2005)

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