GUIYANG, March 29 (Xinhua) -- A blind man and his sidekick who lost four fingers on his right hand have overcome their disabilities by becoming each other's eyes and hands.
The unlikely duo set up a cleaning and disinfection factory in Yuping Dong autonomous county, southwest China's Guizhou Province, and bring hope to disabled people by offering them employment.
Ma Zhiguo and Shi Kunjie embarked on their partnership in 2012 when they met each other at a conference for disabled people.
Ma, 52, lost four fingers on his right hand, aged 19 when operating a honeycomb briquette machine, while 39-year-old Shi lost his eyesight when he was hurt by broken glasses, aged 11.
"I started making a living by selling vegetables and making tofu at the market after I lost my fingers. It was very hard," Ma said.
Inspired by a cleaning and disinfection advertisement on television, Ma asked Shi, a blind massage therapist, to be his partner and help set up a similar plant. Their plant is different as it employs many disabled people.
"More and more Chinese care about sanitary conditions in hotels and restaurants. They want cleaner bed sheets and tableware. We do a good job," Ma said.
Supported by the local government, they received 4 million yuan (around 580,000 U.S. dollars) bank loan and raised a further 3 million themselves.
Construction of a two-storey plant began in 2015 on a barren mountain, near a sewage treatment plant, far from residential areas.
The company provides cleaning and disinfecting services for more than 300 restaurants and over 40 hotels and hospitals in the county. It has earned about 3 million yuan since starting operation in February 2016.
Among its 42 employees, 17 are disabled.
"Washing dishes or bed sheets does not need much skill. People can be qualified after simple training," Shi said.
In the factory's workshop, a banner containing the slogan "Your trust makes us work more diligently" hangs on the wall.
Wu Yongying is dishwasher for the company.
"Disabled people find it difficult to secure jobs. Many have to stay at home," said Wu, who has a bad leg. Wu lives in a dormitory, eats at the factory canteen for free and earns more than 2,000 yuan a month.
Another half-blind worker Yang Xinwen, 48, works in the factory during the day and learns massage at night.
"I don't feel tired as long as I have chance to work diligently," Yang said.
There are about 85 million people with disabilities in China, with 70 percent living in rural areas.
Poverty among the disabled is not a new problem, and China has poured enormous resources into addressing it.
According to the local government, companies can be exempted from taxes if more than 25 percent of their employees are disabled.
Moreover, the local disability federation provided a subsidy of 100,000 yuan for Ma and Shi's factory last year. In addition to financial support, the federation also organizes annual training to teach computer skills to the disabled.
Ma and Shi are organizing recruitment tours to expand their business and invite more disabled people to work in their factory in the future.
"We should not forget where we are from and where we are going," Shi said.