Earn­ing a liv­ing once the bread­win­ner’s gone

Dis­abled sis­ters turned to on­line busi­nesses to sup­port their mother and them­selves

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By WU YONG and LIU CE in Shenyang

Tian Xiaolu will lay for hours at a time atop the only bed in her home, con­cen­trat­ing hard as she strug­gles to type on a tablet com­puter us­ing just the tip of her nose.

The 25-year-old is com­mu­ni­cat­ing with cus­tomers as part of one of the WeChat busi­nesses she runs with her twin sis­ter, Tian Lulu.

Both sis­ters have cere­bral palsy, a de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­or­der that se­verely re­stricts their move­ment and abil­ity to speak. They were born in 1991 in Dan­dong, Liaon­ing prov­ince, to par­ents who can­not hear or speak, mak­ing el­dest sis­ter Tian Lulu the only one in the fam­ily who is able to com­mu­ni­cate ver­bally.

“Although we are dis­abled, we don’t want to be use­less. We want to make a liv­ing by our­selves,” she said.

For many years, the fam­ily were re­liant on the fa­ther’s mea­ger salary to put food on the ta­ble. As they were grow­ing up, the chil­dren learned sign lan­guage with their mother. Even­tu­ally, Tian Lulu, who only has the use of two of her fin­gers, knew enough to teach her­self Chi­nese char­ac­ters.

Then, sev­eral years ago, the fam­ily was given a com­puter that Xiaolu used to find a part­time typ­ing job on­line.

“Although the salary was only 200 yuan ($29) per month, I was re­ally ex­cited about it be­cause I was earn­ing the money by my­self,” she said.

The hap­pi­ness was short­lived, how­ever, as her fa­ther died of stom­ach can­cer last De­cem­ber. “It was like the sky

Although we are dis­abled, we don’t want to be use­less. We want to make a liv­ing by our­selves.”

Tian Lulu, who has cere­bral palsy

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had fallen down,” said Xiaolu, adding that the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion al­lowed no room for sad­ness to sink in.

The fam­ily had no in­come, so she de­cided to shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity and be­gan sell­ing dried fruit and snacks on her WeChat ac­count in Jan­uary 2016. It went smoothly at first, be­cause it was Spring Fes­ti­val and peo­ple across China were stock­ing up for the hol­i­day sea­son.

She earned 50 yuan in the first two days, but her busi­ness col­lapsed af­ter the fes­ti­val and there were no more or­ders for months.

How­ever, with the help of lo­cal vol­un­teers, Xiaolu changed her busi­ness strat­egy and be­gan to sell san­i­tary pads, which fetch a higher price than pro­duce.

Due to the dif­fi­cul­ties she has typ­ing, her busi­ness is still lack­lus­ter, yet she per­sists in her en­deavor.

“I have more friends on WeChat now. I have gained much love from them. They al­ways sup­port me and give me a hand. I can­not give up,” she said.

The younger sis­ter, Tian Lulu, also wants to con­trib­ute, but as she is un­able to speak clearly, she prac­tices typ­ing with her nose ev­ery day so that she can run an­other on­line busi­ness sell­ing soap.

She only works for two hours a day, be­cause her el­der sis­ter is wor­ried that any longer might tire her out.

Yet de­spite all their dif­fi­cul­ties, the fam­ily adamantly re­fuses hand­outs.

“It’s not easy to earn money for ev­ery­one. We have the min­i­mum liv­ing al­lowance. The lo­cal gov­ern­ment helps us a lot, so please don’t do­nate.” Lulu said.

Con­tact the writ­ers at li­uce@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS BY WANG XIAOYANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

From right: Tian Lulu, Tian Xiaolu and their mother at their home in Dan­dong.

Typ­ing on a tablet com­puter is hard work for Tian Xiaolu.

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