A Laotian girl missing teeth, a dropout in Cambodia, or a Syrian man in war-torn Aleppo ... On the surface, they appear to have little in common. But their lives have become entwined along the Belt and Road in a way they could have never imagined.
China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 with the aim of building infrastructure and trade networks to lift villages, towns, cities and countries out of poverty and bring more prosperity to wealthier jurisdictions along its path. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road are expected to connect countries and peoples in Asia, Africa and Europe along ancient trade routes.
NEW TEETH, NEW WELL
Grinning no longer embarrasses Anuo, who now has her two front teeth back. Smiling and laughter has returned to the 12-year-old Laotian girl.
"I look much happier when I laugh now," said Anuo, who lives in Hakai by the Nam Mang river.
More than three years ago, she lost half an upper foretooth during a struggle with a catfish caught by her uncle. Another tooth was lost when she fell on the muddy road following a downpour.
The loose, fragile and yellow teeth of the locals are largely blamed on the turbid, smelly water drawn from the only well during a drought. What's worse, the amount of water was insufficient for the village.
However, tremendous change when the Chinese company building the Nam Mang River 1 Hydropower Station dug a new well, along with improving the village's major road free of charge.
More of a surprise for Anuo was the free physical examinations for the villagers arranged by Dongfang Electric Corporation. It was then when Anuo received her new front teeth.
"The fish mom cooks on drought days tastes equally good now," Anuo says.
Like Anuo, millions around the world are directly benefiting from Belt and Road projects. Dongfang Electric completed the Nam Mang river power project in 2016.
A PATH THROUGH WAR
The road from war-torn Aleppo to the port city of Latakia in Northwest Syria was rough with bumps and hollows, with a truck dilapidated with bullet holes and shrapnel scratches, and a driver who couldn't be more prepared for any emergency situation.
Suddenly, a shell blew up by the road. Ameer Anis, 32, made a sudden dodge to escape death. He remembers how lucky he was that the truck remained in good condition along with his cargo, nearly a ton of solidly-packed soaps he helped make.
The road was really tough, but was not tougher than the life Anis and other Syrian families were leading amid a war.
These Aleppo olive soaps of traditional Syrian craftsmanship were bound for Tianjin some 7,000 km away. Li Jianwei, a Chinese businessman based in the port city some 120 km southeast of the Chinese capital Beijing, made this order and many others before.