At a startup demo event in 2014, organizers introduced a unique speaker, Mother Yi, founder of the "Green Life" NGO.
Devastated by her son's tragic death in a car accident in 2000, she decided to fulfill his last wish by planting trees in the desert. In 2002, leaving her medical career and clinic behind, she relocated to Inner Mongolia alongside her husband. They used their son’s life insurance money and even sold a property in Shanghai to fund the ambitious tree-planting project in the challenging terrain of Kulun Qi.
Despite facing financial difficulties and logistical challenges, Mother Yi’s resilience and commitment never wavered. By the time she shared her story at the event, they had successfully planted 1.6 million trees, a testament to her unwavering dedication over more than a decade.
Moved by her perseverance and the impact of her work, I felt compelled to contribute. Without hesitation, I donated immediately.
Yi Jiefang's life has been both tumultuous and legendary. Born in Shanghai in 1949, alongside the birth of the People's Republic of China, she bravely moved to Japan alone at 38, eventually establishing a comfortable life there with her family. Tragedy struck when her 51-year-old life was upended by the sudden death of her son, Yang Ruizhe, in a car accident on May 22, 2000.
For a year and a half, Yi Jiefang was engulfed in the pain of her loss, until she recalled her son's two unfulfilled wishes. One was to contribute to Sino-Japanese relations and economic exchange with his efforts and expertise. The other, inspired by a report on dust storms, was to plant trees in Inner Mongolia to combat the problem, a task both arduous and resource-intensive.
Spurred by her son's wishes, Yi Jiefang and her husband left their jobs, closed their clinic, sold all their assets in Japan, and used their son's compensation money to return to China in early 2003 to engage in philanthropy.
They began by fulfilling their son's first wish, establishing Yang Ruizhe Hope Primary School in Changsha, Hunan, in 2003 to provide education for more children and foster future talents for China. The school also formed a sister-school relationship with Tanihata School in Japan, symbolizing Sino-Japanese friendship with cherry blossoms blooming annually on campus.
The second wish was more challenging. On March 31, 2003, Yi Jiefang established the "Green Life" charity. The very next day, she flew to Inner Mongolia to begin tree planting efforts in the Kerqin Sandy Land, rallying local government support and volunteers.
Over 20 years, the "Green Life" organization has greened 40,000 mu (approximately 6,600 acres) of desert and planted 10 million trees.