Help, money flow into quake recovery

Marketplace Staff May 22, 2008

Help, money flow into quake recovery

Marketplace Staff May 22, 2008


KAI RYSSDAL: Foreign companies have been getting a bad rap in the Chinese blogosphere this week. There’ve been complaints that big multinationals like McDonald’s and Pfizer haven’t made large enough contributions to earthquake relief. Today the minister of commerce went on television saying quite the opposite — that donations from foreign companies in China have come to about $280 million in cash and supplies so far. The scale of the disaster — 51,000 lives by last count and millions dislocated — has prompted an outpouring of domestic support too. Jamila Trindle reports from southwest China.

JAMILA TRINDLE: At this drop-off point on the road towards the devastated areas of China’s Sichuan province, trucks rumble in with supplies from across the country. It is crowded with vans, shiny SUVs and cars with people bringing supplies and offering help. One group of volunteers were employees from the Blue Sword Bottling Company. After the earthquake hit, they were some of the first volunteers to arrive on the scene.

Zhang Zou Zong Feng [translation]: We got to the school at around 4 o’clock. When we arrived, we used our hands. Our workers dug people out with our hands. And we probably saved around 20 students.

And over a week later, Zou Zong Feng and 300 of her co-workers are still here, working at relief efforts around the clock.

ZOU ZONG FENG [translation]: We have more than 20 vans, and we’re driving them to all the rescue points, delivering water for free. We’re working 24 hours a day. No rest. We’re extremely tired.

Zou usually works in public relations, but she says this effort isn’t about making a good impression.

ZOU ZONG FENG [translation]: I think we’ve done what we should do. We didn’t do it for the praise. We truly did this for the victims after seeing their tragic situation.

So many cars showed up on the roads to the quake site that police cordoned them off in drop-off donation points. Thousands of cars and SUVS have come from as far away as Beijing, more than 900 miles to the northeast.

CHEN XIAO BING: When they came, they brought lots of food, digging tools, excavators and backhoes — everything. Some even drove their own cars to transport materials.

Chen Xiao Bing is coordinating one of the refugee camps at a stadium in Shefang. He says what they really need now is donations.

CHEN XIAO BING [translation]: Right now, people don’t have places to live. This needs to be solved, because building houses takes a long time. They really need rice, cooking oil and quilts. These are the most urgent things.

Those in charge are asking volunteers who aren’t experts in search and rescue, health care or psychology to go home and consider making a donation instead.

Xinhua News Agency said that as of Sunday donations had totaled $1.3 billion and 85 percent of that came from the Chinese themselves. The vast majority of support is coming from government-organized charities. But people have also been quick to act on their own.

Though most of the out-of-town voluneteers have gone home, this stadium still has plenty of volunteers. They are kids from the local high school like Wang Yang. After feeling the quake and seeing so much devastation, he has a new sense of responsibility.

WANG YANG [translation]: Right now our hometown is devastated. We have to give what we can. To be able to do our part for our hometown makes me feel really good.

Teacher Li Jing Jing says seeing the disaster firsthand has made her students want to personally answer the call put out by the Communist Youth League.

LI JING JING: Another reason, another very important reason, I think, maybe this is the environment. Maybe the political environment because the government call on all those children to participate.

The call to volunteer comes not only from China’s central government but increasingly from China’s ever-expanding private sector. Corporations are making large, unprecedented contributions and their employees — investment bankers, truck drivers, food producers and factory workers — are contributing their time.

ZOU ZONG FENG [translation]: I’m very proud to be a Blue Sword Bottling Company employee. Companies must bear some responsibility for society. Only a socially responsible business can accomplish big things.

As China faces the next big challenge — housing victims and rebuilding the quake zone — many are hoping this new sense of corporate social responsibility will also continue to grow.

In Sichuan Province, I’m Jamila Trindle, for Marketplace.

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