Wulin Night Fair offers opportunities to the physically challenged
To alleviate job discrimination and boost the employment rate among disabled people, the Hangzhou Wulin Night Fair has carved out booths for people with disabilities. Their creative handicrafts have found favor with visitors in recent months.
Zhao Xilong and Yang Hongwei are brothers. Zhao lost his left hand and suffered serious injury in a fire, while Yang lost his legs in an accident. For years, they had set up booths to sell weaved handicrafts made of palm leaves in many cities.
In October, they learned about the Hangzhou Wulin Night Fair from social media and came to seek opportunities.
"We just want a shot in Hangzhou. At first, we could only sell a couple of products. Now, the sales volume is reaching 1,000 yuan a day on weekends and festivals," said Zhao. "The business is getting better and better."
Their products are hand woven with palm leaves. Depending on how long it takes to make a single piece, the handicrafts are priced from 20 to 30 yuan (US$2.87-4.31).
In a bid to produce as many as possible, they two often stay up late. Even though, they can only weave about 20 piece a day.
Since Zhao lost one hand, he can only weave simple products.
"Yang can make a cicada in 30 minutes, but it takes me at least 90 minutes. I can only weave several pieces a day," said Zhao.
Zhao's wife was injured in an accident and has been suffering from mental disability. Now, his wife lives with him in Hangzhou while their two daughters still live in Heilongjiang Province. In a bid to support his daughters and take care of his wife, Zhao only sleeps four hours a day in order to weave more.
"Life is tough, but I meet so many warm-hearted people in Hangzhou. The night fair has given us the best location and exempted us from rent," said Zhao.
Not far from the brothers, a 43-year-old deaf woman, Wu Jingxia, is selling handmade pastries, fabrics and artistic paper flowers. A volunteer from the Hangzhou Sign Language Barrier Free Service Center helps Wu and customers communicate on the spot.
Wu only sets up the stall on weekends with sales volume around 800 yuan a day.
"Selling my work makes me happy and fulfilled," said Wu. "Without the help of the volunteer, I wouldn't be able to achieve this goal."
The sign language service center was established under the support of local authorities last year. Now it has built 208 service spots in the city, covering scenic spots, shopping malls, transportation hubs and medical organizations.
Wu Shaoci, 41, and wife Ying Lei are also deaf. They started business at the Wulin Night Fair in November. Wu paints on leaves and Ying runs the booth. The couple's stall often allures streams of visitors, which brings them about 1,200 yuan of income every day.
"Hearing loss causes difficulties in daily communication. But confidence and perseverance can conquer the disability," said Wu.
The Wulin Night Fair has exempted the rent for the disabled people and provided free illuminated advertising signs. The fair is located at the center of the Wulin commercial belt in Gongshu District, and nearby upscale shopping malls include Intime, Kerry Center and Hangzhou Tower. It reopened to the public on August 4 after months of renovation.
"The 20th CPC National Congress stressed the importance of supporting people in the lower strata and eliminating unreasonable restrictions and employment discrimination that affect equal employment, so that everyone has an opportunity to realize their own development through hard work. The night fair hopes to build a platform for disabled people and contributes to social progress," said Ye Lianzhong, the manger of Wulin Night Fair.
Ever since the Chinese government issued a guideline last year to build Zhejiang Province into a demonstration zone for common prosperity, Hangzhou, as the provincial capital of Zhejiang, drafted the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for high-quality development to achieve that goal. The goal is to build an olive-shaped society, which means a society with a large middle class, a small elite and a small lower class.
"Hangzhou has served as a shining example of development and common prosperity. Helping and hiring vulnerable people is part of common prosperity and reflects the city's development level," said Ye.