She Holds Up Half the Sky


At five o’clock in the morning, Fengying is already busy. She cleans the village roads and then rushes home to cook. After breakfast, she helps her husband exercise, and she would busy herself managing the Children’s Center. After dinner, she walks with her husband and then teaches dancing to the women in the village. This is a day in Fengying’s life; despite the hecticness, she enjoys it, “I need to attend to a lot of things during the day, so I choose to wake up early to clean the village roads so that I have enough time for other matters.


Fengying is 63 years old this year. Her petite body frame bears the burden of many responsibilities. She cares for her husband, who had a stroke five years ago, and her grandson, as well as cleans the village roads to earn some additional income. She serves as the village's administrator of the Children's Center, leader of the villagers' group, and vice president of the ancestral hall. Her friends describe her as energetic, big-hearted, capable, and who has had to endure a lot.


"My mother was not educated, but she was a good person. My uncle and aunt passed away early, so my mother and father raised us siblings and six of my cousins. My mother taught us since childhood to do good, and she was highly respected even by those living in nearby villages." Influenced by her family, Fengying also serves her villages faithfully, contributing to its public affairs matters.



Rural development by building women’s capacity


To develop the potential of women and give them a platform to use their talents, World Vision began systematically building the capacity of women in Fengying's village in 2012. In 2013, World Vision visited Yongji City in Shanxi Province for Fengying and other women representatives to learn about the operations of local women's cooperatives and how local women can participate in community affairs. After returning to their village, the women established the "Harmony" Women's Association, with Fengying as one of its members.


In 2013, World Vision supported a learning trip. Fengying (first from right in the front row) posing for a group photo.


Initially, the Women's Association planned to organize dance classes and promote a clean and healthy environment. World Vision donated drums, costumes, props, and other performing equipment and invited teachers to teach the women drum dance. They started with four people in the group.


There was a lot of buzz in the village when the dance classes started, "some women told me not to invite their daughters-in-law to join us. I used the opportunity to tell them that dancing is exercising. I had shoulder pains, but it gradually improved after I started dancing. We are promoting exercise." Fengying's words did not sway some of the women. They would watch the classes from afar and were only convinced after they saw their daughter-in-law learning the dance steps wholeheartedly. "We now have four mothers and their daughter-in-laws in our group," says Fengying, gleefully.


Dancing became increasingly popular in the village. But Fengying wanted to encourage more people to take up this healthy form of exercise. She organized the dance team to perform in six nearby villages, and they gradually expanded to another seven further away. Eventually, all 13 villages formed their dance teams, and the township frequently organized competitions, promoting a healthy cultural life for the community.


Women's Association was established after the learning trip. Fengying is a member of the association and participated in activities to clean the village.


World Vision also supported the Women's Association's plan to improve the village's sanitation by contributing brooms, trash bins, handcarts, garbage trucks, and other equipment, helping the community and children build a clean-living environment. With the support from Fengying and members of the Women's Association, the village's hygiene improved significantly, and the roads became cleaner and tidier.


World Vision also supported the Women's Association to travel to Chengdu in Sichuan Province and Conghua District in Guangzhou to learn about ecological farming. "We also began planting rice without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I now grow one mu of rice for my family, and I use this method to ensure our food is safe and healthy." Fengying continues to grow rice using the environmentally friendly methods she learned.


The learning trips and subsequent action plans helped Fengying expand her horizons and experience, equipping her with the skills and foundations she could use to help her in her future responsibilities.



Nurturing children’s well-being: the hope of rural development


In the past, Fengying's village did not have a place where children could study or play. In 2014, the village, with the support of World Vision, renovated the old village committee office. They put in bookshelves, books, tables, chairs, air conditioners, fans, and multimedia equipment and installed stainless steel railings in the corridor, transforming the abandoned space into a place for children to use during their free time. After taking a vote in the village, Fengying was elected as the administrator of the Children's Center.


"When the Center first opened, children did not know they could come to use the place. I called every parent and grandparent to tell them about the Center and assured them it was a safe place for children to be in. Younger parents were very supportive when they heard about it. The village leaders were also very encouraging. Over time, more and more children came to the Center. We usually host around 25 children each time."


Fengying sorting books at the Children’s Center.


Fengying also encouraged children with disabilities to come to the Center. Xiaoming, who has learning disabilities, lives near the Center. His father passed away, and his mother works during the day. Fengying would pick up Xiaoming and send him home when the Center opened. "I want to help him keep his mind active. In the past, he would not respond if people called his name. I taught him repeatedly, and he can respond to others now. I also taught him to write 1 to 10 and his name."


"When children come to the center, I teach, care, and correct them just like my own child." This is a conviction Fengying holds firmly to as she strives to excel as the administrator of the Children's Center.


Fengying managed the Center by herself during the first two years. Later, World Vision suggested forming children's groups. World Vision and our partners provided training for the groups so that its members could assist Fengying with tasks such as cleaning, taking attendance, and lending out books to children who come to the Center.


With help from the children, Fengying can focus on providing more services to other villagers. She led the children's groups to clean public spaces, make dumplings, and spend time with people staying at an old folk's home, visiting and bringing rice dumplings and moon cakes during festivals to older people and children with disabilities in the village.



Caring for family and community


Fengying occasionally faces challenges in the multiple roles she plays. Once, the Children's Center had organized a field trip, but Fengying's grandson had a high fever and needed to go to the hospital. In the end, Fengying sought her sister-in-law's help to take her grandson to the hospital while attending her field trip duties. Some villagers commented that she was "caring for the community at the expense of her family."


"I want to take care of both my family and the community. My family fully supports me serving the community, and my son and daughter-in-law do not oppose it either. I will continue to serve." she says. Over the years, the villagers have recognized Fengying's enthusiasm, service quality, and administrative and coordination abilities. They trusted her to handle matters effectively and elected her as the group leader. "Their trust in me is because of my mother's reputation, but I'm also very thankful to World Vision for allowing me to learn over the years. It has allowed me to develop my abilities and take up many roles to serve our village and children."


Fengying has apparent aspirations: "I hope the children in the village are healthy and safe so that parents who are away working will not worry about their children. I also hope to continue providing services that meet the needs of children and parents under the guidance and support of World Vision."


An old photo of a smiling Fengying.


A few years later, Fengying’s smile remains radiant as ever.