Yeli village, outskirts of Beijing. Life is hard in this part of China: a constant grey sky looms over the heads, factories and pollution have altered the ecosystem, the river water is not clear anymore, and fish and birds that are not dead, have decided to migrate. Living here becomes even more difficult if you are affected by a disability: obstacles dual, while the ways to get around them are halved.
Jia Wenqi e Jia Haixia know it very well: both disabled even if not by birth, but – most important – forever friends. Wenqi has lost the use of arms when he was a child, Haixia was blinded in an accident at work. One becomes the other's eyes, and the other becomes the arms of the other returning to be complete. Together they became a team capable of independently supporting the daily vicissitudes, but most of all they were able to make an unique project: repopulate the Chinese countryside by planting new trees, transforming barren land around Beijing in a forest, a new home for animals, insects and birds.
As often happens, to realize this project there was no budget. No customer told them, they told themselves. Or perhaps, it has never been necessary. Thus Wenqi helped Haixia to rise on the few remaining trees to cut some branches to plant in the desolate land. Wenxi remained on the ground and from there coordinated Haixia’s movements by lending his eyes: a bit more on the right, left, be careful!
The first year of their venture they plant 800 trees, but when they return in spring to ascertain the growth… they discover that only two had survived the winter (and pollution). Many would have given up, but they don’t, and in 10 years the two friends planted more than 10.000 twigs. Today 10.000 green trees. GoPro, the brand universally known to help capture the best moments in wide angle shots, is telling this story in the documentary Blind Man and His Friend Armless Plant Forest in China, part of the GoPro For a Cause, a special project to make known the stories of extraordinary men. Wenxi and Haixia’ stoy was filmed when an employee GoPro became aware of them in November 2015, and Matt But, artistic producer for GoPro, tracked them.
The video is available here, offering a valuable warning: being alive is about having a project, no matter what it is, and physical limits don’t count, because our mind is unlimited.