Recently, China marked the fifth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake. This earthquake was a magnitude of 8.0, an incredibly strong natural force. More than 80,000 people were reported to have been killed in the quake, many of which were children in school. It occurred in the Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, with its main force striking Wenchuan County. This earthquake was the worst in China in the past 30 years. Indeed, 4.45 million more citizens were injured in the aftermath. Still, this horrific event led to an increase in NGOs in China to help reconstruct the buildings lost and to help the families that were affected.
But in the wake of such a tragedy, the goodness of people can be revealed. In this case, multiple NGOs in China were created after the earthquake in order to help the victims, their families, and nearby communities. Directly after the devastating earthquake, NGOs in China were created. There was a rescue operation in the Shuping village, which is located in the disaster zone. Two men in particular, Li Zhenping and Fu Chengxi, spent two months pulling out items from the ruins and returning them to their rightful owners. The next year was full of quake-relief operations, where Li created an unofficial NGO with a volunteer team to help people travel to hospitals as well as to move supplies like food, water, and shelter.
Eventually, Li created a real nonprofit called the Leifeng Volunteer Service Station, which is an NGO that provides support for the areas hurt by the earthquake. Their focus is on children and the elderly who are not supported properly by their families. Fu, on the other hand, helped to create income for the farmers in Shuping village by planting walnut saplings across one hectare. Fu also grew plants between the trees to create even more profit.
In the month following the devastating earthquake, the NGOs in China found more than 1 million volunteers. Li said that about a dozen NGOs in China were created nearly overnight after the quake, and that many still exist today to continue to help those affected by the quake in various ways. Another example of an NGO that was founded due to the quake is the Weile Volunteer Research and Development Center. This was founded by Wang Bin, a professor of psychology. His nonprofit organization gives help to those with mental trauma due to earthquakes. The volunteers forge friendships with those they help, and encourage them to move forward in life past the tragedy.
Sichuan has the third largest number of NGOs in China according to the 2013 China Development Report. The Sichuan quake was the catalyst that created so many NGOs in China. According to the report, about 50 new NGOs were created in the past five years (since the earthquake). Although many have less than 10 members, it still shows the strength and kindness that people show in the wake of a tragedy. The volunteers are just people who want to make a difference, and often, their volunteering becomes something much more; it becomes a permanent part of their life. So although the earthquake devastated thousands upon thousands of people, the aftermath showed the depth of goodness that exist in people, and it showed how many people want to do good. The world should use Sichuan as an example of the right way to respond to tragedy or injustices in the world; if enough people commit the way the volunteers did post-earthquake, perhaps a true, global difference can be made.
– Corina Balsamo
Sources: China Daily, The Atlantic, SCMP