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Local community benefits from protecting the Great Wall

Restoration, or at least maintenance, of the Great Wall has been ongoing ever since it was built in the 3rd century BC.

Wen Xianxiang and his family have run an agritainment business for three years. Those who drop by his hotel are mostly tourists visiting the Great Wall at Mutianyu. He said he owns the largest family hotel in Huairou district.

Thirty years ago, everyone in Wen’s village was a farmer. But in 1984, things changed. At that time, 29-year old Wen was recruited by the government to restore Mutianyu village.

The entire village was enthusiastic. What they recall was the impressive income, and the hard work that followed. Wen said the government paid them 60 yuan ($8.7) per month to carry out restoration work. But it was no piece of cake. They needed to carry stones and sand on their back and sometimes relied on animals for transportation.

It took them almost four years to complete restoration work. And thanks to the number of tourists from both home and abroad who now flock to Mutianyu, everyone in the village is now living a better life.

According to Wen, the villagers were so poor they used to steal bricks from the Wall to sell. But prosperity and a sense of pride changed all that. Now they hope the Great Wall will be well preserved for decades to come.

Preservation efforts start with education. Some 120 kilometers away from Wen’s hotel is Lin Xing Qin School. It sits at Jinshanling, another section of the Great Wall.

What makes this school special is the fact that it was built with the help of a grassroots organization devoted to the protection of the Great Wall.

Zhi Jin is one of the volunteers with the organization, which drops by the school almost once a month to provide assistance. Members of the organization help improve school facilities, introduce quality education resources, donate books, as well as educate the children on the history and preservation efforts of the Great Wall.

These children are growing up along the Great Wall. But they know little about it. After these lessons, they seem more interested in protecting it.

The organization isn’t just helping this school but also reaches out to 16 other ones. That’s because Zhi Jin and other members believe helping children along the Great Wall is helping the Great Wall.