Where is the real China to be found? A couple of days ago it was clear that the answer was Nanjing or Shanghai or Beijing: these cities with their extraordinary transformation since the cultural revolution, with their confidence and wealth and stunning transport and the Gucci shops – the cities of the future, the signs of the power of the Chinese economy.
Today the answer is not so clear. We have spent today in the villages of South-West China, a very short distance from the border with Myanmar. And this is certainly the real China too. These village people are very poor, they do not speak Chinese, they dress quite differently from the Westernised Nanjing dwellers, and their welcome to strangers from the other side of the world was sensational. I cannot imagine three visitors from a country most of them have never heard of, with no purpose in their visit other than friendship, and with nothing in their hands would be greeted by the citizens of Dunfermline or Stirling or Greenock with the extravagance with which the people of the villages of Manghong, Zaodong, Mada and Luxiang villages in Jinghan and Zhangfeng in Yunnan Province welcomed representatives of the World Mission Council. The Town Band, drums, saxophone, trumpet, women dressed in their gorgeous traditional dress, dancing with us down the village street. And the local Communist Party Governor our companion every step of the way.
Maybe that is not the whole story. Maybe we were getting some credit for the amazing work being done in their communities by Amity Foundation, work which we support. Let me tell you about the loans which come from the HIV Programme and partly funded by The Guild.
If anyone ever worried whether money spent in poor communities in far parts of the world makes a difference that person should come to Yunnan Province. £300 loans transform lives: we have seen it with our own eyes. The loans are given to people living with HIV (one condition of the loan is that those who receive it must faithfully take their medicine). So one grandfather and grandmother were able to buy goats, fatten them up, sell them, buy more goats repay the loan, sell and buy more goats and so on. Not so long ago they were at their wits end, sick, poor and in despair. Now they are living well, their income is secure, they are standing on their own feet, and they have plans to build a new pen for the goats.
£300 loans transform lives. Like the young man we met whose parents have died and whose two brothers have died of AIDS-related illnesses. He is living with HIV after selling his family inheritance of land to buy drugs. He and his young wife fled far away and lived in desperate circumstances; and in that far country he came to his senses. With his loan he has been cultivating sugar cane and has done well. He too has paid back his loan and is renting even more land to grow more sugar cane. Now he is living healthily and taking his medicine and delighting in his little daughter.
£300 loans transform lives. Well done the HIV Programme. Well done Amity! Well done The Guild!