Ever heard the saying “Nothing is impossible if you just put your mind to it”? Things are just about finding your way through the hurdles in life, with strength and you are bound to reach your goal. While some may not agree, a 76-year-old Zhang Jiwen did who made it his life mission to help the people in need despite being almost deaf himself.
Making way up a mountain in the Fuling Forest Park, near the city of Chongqing in China, Zhang carried building materials to make safe walking paths spanning hundreds of meters from a modern road to an isolated village at the top, and from the village to its water source.
Growing up in a village of Fuling forests, Zhang later moved to a big city but remained faithful to his roots. When he heard about a village whose children had to walk across the mountain through dangerous and rocky slopes to reach their school, he dropped in for help. He has been taking a bus from his home in Chongqing to Fuling Forest Park since 2012, to make a safe path from the isolated village to the city’s road.
Jiwen is not just adding his labor and sweat to the task of making the path; he also bought all the building materials from his own pocket. He got sand from a nearby river bed, and bricks from the demolished houses close by. After five years of hard work, he finally managed to complete hundreds of meters of the safe mountain path, beginning at the base and reaching the village.
Wherever he saw steeper slopes, he built wooden safety railings and even added stone tables and chairs for the elderly to rest. There is also a shed on the way where the children can take shelter when it rains. Zhang was not content with just building the safe path to the road; as soon as he was done, he moved on to building another safe path from the village to its water source, a spring 100 meters from the village.
Zhang Jiwen lost his hearing ten years ago, only making him stronger and more fearless with time. When he started his work, he had no support even from the residents of the village that he was helping, calling him crazy and things of the sort. He was not discouraged for one moment and kept on working to his goal. People are not thankful to him, even though he is unable to hear their gratitude but he can see it in their eyes and their smiles.
Zhang Jiwen’s 74-year-old wife Wang Lanying is also disabled and is unable to see anything due to an eye condition. She helps him on his errands, brings him food, and keeps him company on his breaks. Doing construction in the mountains is a dangerous task in itself but when the person in question has a hearing disability, the dangers just multiply, and Zhang has suffered the consequences. He once got his leg fractured due to a big rock but returned to construction as soon as he could walk.
The courageous man does not intend to stop at the two safe paths. He has marked 100 such routes on a map and wishes to improve as many of these as he can. He is one of those unsung heroes that make a great difference to people’s lives but do not always rise to the top to be known and appreciated by everyone.