Minle Village, China
“Before Build Change came, I thought I would be living in this tent for the rest of my life,” says Xiao Qianghui. Mrs. Xiao is a resident of Minle, a village in Sichuan, China, that was devastated by the 2013 earthquake. Her house, like those of many of the villagers, was utterly decimated in the punishing quake that reached almost 8.0 on the Richter scale.
“Before Build Change came, I thought I would be living in this tent for the rest of my life.” Mrs. Xiao
When the earthquake struck, Mrs. Xiao was in the field, cutting wheat. Suddenly, she saw a chicken sail through the air, and she felt dizzy. She tried to focus on a nearby neighbor’s house but, while she watched, it collapsed.
Mrs. Xiao hurried to her own house to investigate the damage. Her house had collapsed and, with it, the small convenience store that Mrs. Xiao had run. She had lost everything but the pig she purchased just before the quake, almost the only structure in Minle that hadn’t collapsed. Her family spent months living in a structure made of concrete blocks, wooden poles, striped plastic sheeting, and corrugated asbestos sheets.
After scraping together her funds, Mrs. Xiao restarted her convenience store, selling soap and other daily goods out of her tent. But she didn’t see how she could build a new house. Then, in December 2008, Mrs. Xiao met Build Change construction trainer Chen Ting and Build Change drafter Yang Tianjun. She passed them on the road, and they asked her if she wanted them to draw her layout. “What’s a layout?” she recalls asking them.
A few weeks later, Chen Ting and Yang Tianjun came to her yard and taught her and her neighbors about good quality masonry, steel connections, and concrete mixing. By this time, Mrs. Xiao was less convinced that the government was going to build her house for her, and she wanted to know more.
When Build Change held a training in Minle in late January, Mrs. Xiao attended. She found the training to be very useful, and she learned how to distinguish a good quality masonry wall from a bad one. “Now I feel that, whoever builds my house—the government or a private contractor—I’ll be able to supervise the quality,” says Mrs. Xiao.
“Now I feel that, whoever builds my house—the government or a private contractor—I’ll be able to supervise the quality.”Mrs. Xiao
A few days later, Mrs. Xiao and her daughter worked with Build Change drafter Yang Tianjun to develop a layout for her house. “At first I thought that the house layout wasn’t big enough,” Mrs. Xiao recalls, “but Yang Tianjun explained that this house size was the most economically efficient. A bigger house would be more expensive.”
Mrs. Xiao is now working with a contractor, who is laying the foundation for her house, and she’s grateful for Build Change’s continuing technical assistance. “I’m a bit surprised that Build Change would come here,” says Mrs. Xiao, “because Minle is such a remote village. Elizabeth Hausler is the first foreigner who has ever come to Minle. But, of course, I welcome their suggestions and help. What they’re doing here is very good.”