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November 20, 2008
YICT Volunteer Helps in Disaster Area Relief Efforts
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YICT Volunteer Helps in Disaster Area Relief Efforts

In May 2008, Li Jing, a YICT employee, volunteered in the relief efforts in Sichuan’s earthquake-hit areas. As a non-governmental volunteer, he used his annual leave to participate in the relief work for ten days.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your volunteer work in Sichuan?
Li: I participated in the relief efforts in Deyang City. Our group first planned to go to Mianyang and Wenchuan. Both were severely damaged and suffered massive casualties; however, we couldn’t get in as all roads leading to these places were blocked due to severe landslides. So we turned instead to Huayin Town in Shifang County. What a really terrible shock it was to see the whole village buried by rocks and mud resulting from the mountain landslides and avalanches of rock. It was a disaster!

Before we left for Sichuan, we were all expecting to help victims rebuild schools and houses. However, after we arrived at the quake-hit town, the local people said to us: “Why rebuild the school? Our children have been killed...” It was really devastating to hear them say those words.

Q: What drove you to volunteer for aid work in the earthquake-hit areas despite the frequent aftershocks?
Li: To be honest, my wife didn’t agree at first with my decision; she was worried about the epidemics and aftershocks. But my mom fully supported me. She was a doctor, you see; she had gone once to the villages and towns in Guangdong to distribute poliomyelitis pills for children. My mom helped me persuade my wife, and so I was able to go to Sichuan with the full support of my family, which was really a great encouragement for me.

Q: What was your first impression of the quake-hit areas?
Li: It was a living hell … amid the ruins, I sometimes suspected if all of it was real. Before our departure from Shenzhen, psychological consultants reminded us to be prepared for what we would encounter and to be mindful of our words and behaviour, however unintentional, for fear of hurting the already traumatised victims.

Q: What materials did you bring there for the victims? Please tell us exactly what you did.
Li: We brought two trucks of supplies, including masks, disinfectants, food, water and sanitary towels, which my mom prepared for the women. All volunteers at the site ate only hard bread and instant noodles. Good thing we brought our own drinking water, so we weren’t a burden to the local water supply.

We helped the victims do the farm work and cleared away the collapsed houses and vegetable sheds. My job was to level the ground, put up tents, build temporary toilets, fix electrical wires and build fences, among others. It took me two full days to finish these tasks, working from dawn till evening.

My teammates were teachers, doctors and college students who all stopped their work in order to help the victims of the earthquake. To calm the children and for their safety, we built a tent school for them. Also, we went to the city to buy stationery, blackboards and toys for the children. Later, we held a party there; when I heard the songs sung by the children and teachers, I thought they were the loveliest voices I have ever heard in my entire life.

Q: What was your feeling after returning from your volunteer work?
Li: I think all of the volunteers who returned from the disaster areas in Sichuan would agree with me when I say that it is so good to be alive.

All we’ve done was merely to give a little bit of comfort and hope to those who survived. We were all shocked by the power of nature, but we were equally moved by the love and compassion that people have shown during our time there. I would like to have been able to show the surviving families that life goes on as long as people continue to love and care for one another.