At People's Service: Eradicating poverty is 'a kind of commitment'

"Working as the first secretary is a kind of commitment," said 36-year-old Zhao Yaqin, who had spent nearly three years working to help a then-impoverished village in northwest China's Gansu Province shake off poverty.

Zhao could not hide her worry about uncertainties after she arrived at Tantu Village in Xixia Town, Xihe County, Longnan City in Gansu in August 2018 and found nearly 30 percent of the villagers were living in poverty.

"Even if I spent my whole year's salary on this village, it might not make a big difference," said Zhao. 

It requires a lot to be a first secretary in an impoverished village and shoulder the responsibility of poverty eradication, especially for Zhao, who used to work at the local healthcare commission in Longnan City.

While she used to carry out orders from above, as first secretary, Zhao was tasked with narrowing the distance between the villagers and herself in order to find out what they really needed, as well as making decisions to meet those needs in the best interests of the villagers.

The key for Zhao was chatting with villagers as much as possible to build rapport and win their confidence.

But a personal challenge was leaving her 3-year-old son behind in Longnan City.

"At that time, I was a bit frustrated and felt like giving up," said Zhao. However, she shook off the frustration and persisted, because she could not bear to leave her job and the villagers, who often sent her homegrown products.

To better take care of her son, Zhao brought him to Tantu Village and let him study at a local kindergarten. Instead of adding to her daily workload, the little boy provided some extra assistance.

A common thing in the village is that some women with children can't go out to work and earn money; their self-confidence and sense of existence are very low.

"I had to take my boy with me when I made visits to locals during non-school hours," Zhao said. "It's my experience that inspired some women to think that they could also find a job in their spare time."

Besides sending three children to school and taking care of their daily needs, Guo Caixia now raises 50 chickens during her spare time. Meng Taoye, who spent most of her time caring for her grandson, now works at the village-run handmade noodle cooperative, earning 100 yuan ($16) per day and roughly more than 2,800 yuan each month.

By the end of 2020, Tantu Village had been lifted out of poverty with an annual per capita net income of more than 8,000 yuan and the collective economy developing from 20,000 to 168,000 yuan with Zhao and her colleague's efforts.

Zhao is one of the more than 500,000 cadres selected by the Communist Party of China (CPC) since 2012 to serve as first secretaries of villages. Their task was to eradicate poverty in impoverished regions across China. 

By the end of 2020, nearly 100 million impoverished rural residents had escaped poverty since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, and all 832 national-level poverty-stricken counties had shaken off poverty.

To ensure the villagers do not return to poverty, Zhao and her colleagues formulated a monitoring mechanism to follow locals' livelihoods and introduced support measures for villagers who are at risk of returning to poverty.

"These two or three years as the first secretary are a new beginning in my life," said Zhao.

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