In 2011, Bi Ji Me was a 33-year-old woman struggling to take care of her five children after her husband took his own life. Drowning in desperate financial circumstances and reeling from the death of her husband, she also considered suicide but she couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning her children. Living in the Bu Tuo district of China, her situation was not uncommon. In Bi Ji Me’s FXB Village, 41% of households were led by a widower or single mother.
Located in the Sichuan province in the rural, western part of China, Bu Tuo inhabitants face a host of daily obstacles. Half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and 20% are considered to be extremely poor.
When we first met Bi Ji Me her family lived in a house made of mud walls and their only source of income was coming from a single pig. Because of the lack of income, only one of her five children, her 8-year-old boy, was still attending school. Like so many young girls, Bi Ji Me’s 10-year-old daughter gave up her education in order to care for her three youngest siblings who were all under the age of 5.
Initially, Bi Ji Me was hesitant to accept help from FXB. But after frequent home visits, we slowly earned her family’s trust. In addition to providing basic supplies we helped Bi Ji Me construct a sty for pig-rearing, a first step on a road to a more sustainable income. By the end of Year Two, the family had earned $162 from its pig-rearing business, enabling them to build a toilet that vastly improved the house’s sanitary conditions. Fast-forward a year later, the family had built a new house of brick and mortar, and was earning income from its growing stock of three pigs, one cow, one calf and 10 chickens.
This financial stability allowed Bi Ji Me’s oldest two daughters return to primary school and continue to work towards securing an education.
Bi Ji Me’s story is not the only one. Families in villages across six different countries have experienced the similar peace of mind that comes from financial stability – not just handouts. After three years, 97 households in Bi Ji Me’s village had a savings account, compared to just one household during the beginning of the program. The average income of an FXBVillage family in Bu Tuo rose from $24 USD per month to $215 USD per month, an almost 800% increase.
After three years in an FXB Village and overcoming so many obstacles, Bi Ji Me feels more confident about the future. She knows that she and her family are now “on the right path.”