Meet Li Xiaoyan

Yuanbaoshan, China
Client of Accion Microfinance China (AMC)

Go to China. Fly north from Beijing over ragged mountains, down into the wind-blasted steppe of Inner Mongolia—to Chifeng, a city of 2.4 million you’ve probably never heard of. Travel east from Chifeng by smoke-filled taxi for an hour, to Yuanbaoshan, a city of 300,000 you’ve definitely never heard of. Walk an hour and a half from the city center, where ACCION Microfinance China (AMC) opened in December, to Gushan County—a trip that Accion loan officer Cong Lijie makes every week to visit clients such as Li Xiaoyan and her husband, Han Dongdong.

This is where Accion works—on this cold street of small shops, where the couple opened a barbecue restaurant a year ago. It is a pilot of sorts, much like ACCION’s operations here. Li and Han are testing the market with 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shifts and a $1,500 loan to see if they can do better than Han’s former job at the hospital. Their clients, second-shift coal miners, seem to approve, packing the small restaurant nightly.

Amidst such progress, certain constants remain: Yuanbao is an ancient form of currency; shan means ‘mountain’. Coal translates to gold here, of which Li and Han are supremely aware.

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Li Xiaoyan

Yuanbaoshan, China
Client of Accion Microfinance China (AMC)