Worker making flower

Meng Lihua — Dreammaker

Workers making flowers

Meng Lihua — Dreammaker

Despite the frequent interviews she gives, Meng Lihua still avoids the camera. She stands upright, holding her hands tightly, and repeats herself: “Everyone will help people. Everyone is doing it, not only me.”

One of her friends told her that she had been named as the “March Eighth Red Flag” for her country. She has very little Internet access, and no time to read newspapers. She serves as the president of the Chen Meng Love Helping Society in the city of Jingmen, where she helps the elderly and people with disabilities . For her, it was only a matter of dreaming to build shelters for people with disabilities.

Yuanmeng Workshop is located at the junction of urban and rural areas in Palou Town, Dongbao District, Jingmen City, and is surrounded by low-rise buildings and various auto parts factories. On a busy road outside the workshop’s gates, trucks pass by from morning till night, feeding into various construction sites around the area.

The workshop is a large, clean area occupying more than 1,000 square meters. Although the view may not be spectacular, the workshop’s canteens, dormitories, training rooms, activity rooms, and rehabilitation rooms weave together to create a lively scenery.

There are more than thirty people with disabilities living here independently. Life is simple and enjoyable.

Excellent Workers in the Production Line

Every day at 8 am, a unique landscape emerges outside the gates of the factory. The disabled workers collectively put on customized work clothes and enter the workshop one by one. They have a wide range of physical and mental disabilities, and they’re of various ages as well, ranging from 21 to 59 years old.

For such a special group, finding a suitable project is easier said than done. Prior to this, Meng Lihua ran an electronics factory and organized everyone to produce accessories. They would use glue guns to solder things onto circuit boards, but building electronic products requires precision, and workers with disabilities had a difficult time achieving their production standards. Damage to a part could lose more than 100 yuan.

Meng Lihua took her workers to a ballpoint pen factory and a food packaging factory; they’d assemble pens, and label boxes of wine, but they ran into many setbacks.

Zhang finally found the owner of a funeral supplies factory. “I hope you can give them a chance. I guarantee that they will be able to do a good job!” The factory owner was touched by the sincerity of Meng Lihua, and decided to give plastic flower production to them.

The production of plastic flowers seems simple, but it is cumbersome. After seven or eight processes such as kneading and splicing, each piece of the petal, the leaves, and the flower must be pieced together. Ten flowers are tied, and an average of six or seven hundred flowers are made every day.  But some of the workers felt their pay was not sufficient, and left.

The workers who stayed behind were content, though their labor efficiency was limited. The workshops would pack food, and handle the raw materials provided by the merchants, and recycle packages. Their wages would range from 600 to 1,000 yuan per month. There are no intermediate links and the wages are paid directly to the workers.

In Meng Lihua’s eyes, they are all “excellent workers in the production line” and each step is unambiguous. To start production, we must keep up with the pace of the market. “Whatever you do, try to be productive. And remember it is not the people who are disabled, but the products that are disabled.” To catch up with the Spring Festival and Ching Ming, the two peak seasons of the year, the workers consciously work overtime. Adding some points, we have also created a labor competition. “It is the driving force of money; That is to say, we have a great sense of value!”

The Birth of a Dream

A few years ago, the workshop was an abandoned factory covered in bushes and debris. At that time, Meng Lihua was managing a bus line in Jingmen. In her spare time, she went to work as a volunteer at a hospital, an orphanage, and at welfare institutions.

One day in the fall of 2009, Xu Huajun of Xuchang Village, Wuli Town, Shayang County saw a report on Meng Lihua on TV and called her for help.

Overcast and rainy, the village road was muddy, and it took more than two hours for Meng Lihua to find Xu Huajun’s home. Xu Huajun was leaning against a doorless door frame.

Meng Lihua’s eyes became red at the sight. The house was dirty and chaotic, smelling pungent. Because Xu Huajun suffers from severe urinary stones, blood is found in the commode. On the stove, there is only one sweet potato.

Xu Huajun was the same age as Meng Lihua. He was sent by his parents in Langzhong. When he was 19, he went out to work and accidentally fell from a high building, resulting in paraplegia and him lying in bed for ten years. He did not want to be a drag on his elderly adoptive parents, but to instead live alone, and rely on the strength of the villagers to repair their home appliances.

Although well-intentioned people in society send money and deliver goods, they can only solve the worries of the moment. Disabled people can only solve their fundamental problems if they help themselves. Meng Lihua Meng had an idea: Build a home for the disabled and let them support themselves.

When she explained this idea to her three like-minded partners, they loved it.

Zhou Yalan from the Kaijiag Administration Company has long been concerned for empty nesters. He is a model of morality in the community. Gao Chubing, a teacher from Jingchu Institute of Technology and the Red Cross Volunteer Service Committee of Jingmen City, is helpful and has donated bone marrow to save people; The winner and former president of the Jingmen Autism Association, Yan Xuesong, is also a long-term helper and has himself been disabled since childhood. ...To read the full article, login or become a member --- it's free!

– by Meng Lihua

Born in 1970, Meng Lihua was the banknote coordinator of Jingmen City Public Transport Group Co., Ltd., the president of the “Chen Meng Love Helping Association” in Jingmen City, and the founder of “Yuan Meng’s Disabled Shelter Factory”. SHe has won honors such as “National Filial Piety and Respect for the Elderly”, “Hubei Province May Day Labor Medal” and “Hubei Province Moral Model”. In March 2018, she was named the “March Eighth Red Banner”.

This story is part of a series of articles published as an exclusive editorial exchange between China Press for People with Disabilities & Spring Breeze and ABILITY Magazine.