Life was not always easy for Sierra Leonean Hawanatu Bangs, 32, who experienced poverty both in her home country and in China.
Born in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, Hawanatu met her Chinese husband Zheng Jinheng in 2015 when he was working for an offshore fishing firm in West Africa. “I thought the Chinese man was different from anyone I knew. He is diligent and considerate, and makes me feel safe,” Hawanatu said.
They married in Sierra Leone the next year and then moved to Zheng’s hometown, a village on north China’s Loess Plateau in 2017.
Shilou County, Shanxi Province, where Hawanatu lives with her husband, daughter and parents-in-law, was lifted out of poverty in February 2020. The barren loess land was once considered “unsuitable for human habitation” by UN experts.
Hawanatu witnessed the process of targeted poverty alleviation pushed by the Chinese government. Her in-laws were registered as a poverty-stricken household by the government and enjoyed favorable policies.
They set up a chicken farm with a poverty alleviation loan of 95,000 yuan (14,801 U.S. dollars), which was subsidized by the government. Last year, the farm brought the family a revenue of over 80,000 yuan.
Thanks to the business, the family was able to build a house with six rooms and a large courtyard fitted with new electrical appliances such as a refrigerator, gas stove and even a color TV.
“In Sierra Leone, only rich people have such conditions. My brother is studying in a high school in Sierra Leone, and I am now able to send him money,” Hawanatu said. She said she still does not speak Chinese well, which is a barrier for her to find a job. As a housewife, she occasionally helps in a local logistics company.
Hawanatu said her three-year-old daughter started kindergarten this year, and will have a completely different future compared with her “war-ridden childhood.” “I hope she will go to a good university, find a good job and never have to worry about survival,” said Hawanatu.
She said she enjoys her current life very much. Chinese e-commerce platforms like Taobao or Pinduoduo have brought convenience to her life. As a fan of Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, Hawanatu spends a lot time watching clips to learn about other Chinese people’s lives.
She hopes to move to a Chinese city in the future.”There are many opportunities in China. I want to keep learning Chinese, find a good job and help my family live an even better life,” Hawanatu said.