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May 20, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 18-19

Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee ca
Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee ca

Dear Friends,

It’s Monday afternoon here in China. As I write this, the entire country just held 3 minutes of silence to commence a 3 day period of national mourning. It began at 2:28 pm, marking the very moment the massive quake struck in Wenchuan County, Sichuan. Flags flew at half-staff, the people wore white flowers and, heads bowed, held hands. Across the country, horns and sirens wailed in grief.

There are 32,477 people confirmed dead, more than 35,000 still missing.

Sadly and predictably, we are getting more information about children newly orphaned. We are now bringing together people and resources to prepare and train caregivers to help children through the next difficult phase of recovery. Unlike emergency relief (not our specialty but we're learning fast!), this is an area where HTS does have great expertise to offer. We will give all we can to these children who have many hard days ahead of them. I will be sharing our plans as they evolve.

Meanwhile, we continue to focus our attention on the most urgent needs of affected children – children in institutions and children orphaned or displaced by the disaster.

I’ve posted a few photos on our website: http://halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php and will update as more arrive.

There are so many heartbreaking stories, including this one from Hongbai Primary School in Shifang, which saw many of its schools destroyed and hundreds of children and their teachers buried:

“‘We found him!’ Teacher Zhang Huibing’s body was finally discovered, frozen in a posture of pushing against the door frame. According to the students saved by him, when the earthquake happened, Teacher Zhang was on the platform of the classroom on the second floor, which was very near the door. He yelled to the students, ‘Run outside! Hurry!’ And he somehow held the door frame up with both arms as the children ran out, one by one. Just as all the students were safely evacuated, the building collapsed on him. Teacher Zhang, who was only 30 years-old, had a four-year-old child of his own.”

About 30 children, from Yingxiu and Dujiangyang, were taken to a Chengdu city park, the Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee camp. Some children have been united with family members. We’re told that some from the media are actively trying to reunite families. Most of the children in this camp who survived were in their teens. They told us that many younger children in their town did not survive because those in the primary schools and kindergartens were napping when the quake hit and could not run.

The youngest camp resident was 16 days-old. The military police made a special effort to bring her and her very young mother down to the camp from Yingxiu. The baby was only 11 days-old when her daddy perished in the earthquake.

Perhaps today's most heartbreaking story was about some of the 70 injured children who’d been carried down from the affected areas to Huaxi Hospital. Most of the children were reunited with parents or relatives; some were even well enough to leave the hospital after treatment. But a few children remained alone and unclaimed.

They were required to sign their own consent forms so that the doctors could amputate their limbs to save their lives.

Half the Sky spent much of the weekend purchasing requested supplies and shelter, organizing distribution and continuing to assess needs.

As you can imagine, many requested items are getting harder and harder to come by. Just today we doubled our refugee tent order to 200 – all that was available immediately – and already have requests for more. Shoppers in Chengdu have begun filling a no-longer-habitable room at the Chengdu CWI (Children’s Welfare Institution) with everyday goods destined for hard-hit areas. Others around China are working on fulfilling our giant shopping list. Some are flying in to Chengdu, hand-carrying items from our medical wish-list. Our wonderful friends at Gung-Ho Films, a Beijing-based film production services company, are offering logistics support, including shopping, shipping and door-to-tent delivery!

Today 3 more HTS Beijing staffers and 2 Gung-Ho staff traveled to Chengdu to help facilitate our relief efforts. We all feel privileged to be able to help.

I can’t really express how moved we are by your generosity and your trust in Half the Sky to ensure that the children benefit from your gifts. Thank you so much for your kindness and concern.

With love, Jenny

Qingyang Sports Center
Qingyang Sports Center
Qingyang Sports Center
Qingyang Sports Center

Links:

May 20, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 20

Dear Friends,

As I delay writing this report a bit longer each day, I realize that, like so many, I find it harder and harder to read or write those grim statistics or tell the sad stories. We wish we could be done with this death and disaster and start to move on. But still the numbers come.

There are 34,073 people confirmed dead, 245,108 injured, still more than 35,000 still missing.

Yesterday, after those three silent minutes in Sichuan, people began to call out, “Rebuild! Rebuild!” Today, when I was feeling I couldn’t open another casualty report, I read instead a report about new babies born during and right after the quake. They have names like ‘Li Zhen’ (Earthquake) and ‘Born in a Tent’ and ‘Long March.’ They, like all the survivors, will carry these terrible days with them always. But their lives are just beginning. For them and for all of the children who survived, Sichuan will begin to rebuild.

As hope of finding more survivors fades, we find hope in each bit of good news –

During the past week we managed to reach every single orphanage in the hardest-hit areas but one - Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. Today we finally made contact. They said, “The institution buildings are no longer safe to live in. All the children live in tents. The government provides us with enough food and water and daily necessities. Now we only worry how and when we can possibly rebuild.”

Of the 24 children (all of whom were from hard-hit Anxian County) who we reported were brought to Mianyang Zitong SWI because they were newly orphaned, I am very happy to tell you that 13 of them were reunited with relatives.

The children of Suining SWI have now been able to move back into their orphanage building.

More displaced children are arriving daily at shelters in Chengdu, but no one is giving up on finding living relatives yet. Yesterday, 70 children were brought to a large hospital in Chengdu for urgent treatment. Some of them had joyful reunions with family, but of course, not all. One very young girl signed her own consent form to have surgery on her broken arm. Ma Lang wrote, “She was a sweet and tough girl, and the doctors, nurses, and volunteers loved her very much.”

Ma Lang and two other HTS staff are now in Mianyang and we expect more news from them soon. Meanwhile, our relief operation is going into full swing, with tents, tarps, medicines, beds, blankets, rice, diapers, food, clothing and baby formula moving in and out of the Chengdu orphanage for immediate delivery to distressed areas.

As we get closer to realizing our small part of meeting the basic challenges of shelter and emergency supplies, it is time to embark on the most critical project for the long term – helping the children heal and go on with life. This is, of course, why Half the Sky exists and how our organization can best help Sichuan’s children rebuild. Now we will begin the process of training caregivers, foster parents, shelter workers and volunteers of all backgrounds to work with newly orphaned and displaced children.

We believe our long experience working with children orphaned by AIDS and other children who were not infants when they lost their parents has given us a solid foundation for this work. But this week we are recruiting a team of pediatric psychologists, trauma specialsts and social workers to help us adjust our training methods to this special circumstance. (If you are, or know of, a Mandarin-speaking professional working in this field who would like to volunteer for this project, please let me know!)

Within two weeks, Half the Sky’s entire staff of field supervisors will be working with caregivers and new foster parents all around Sichuan. Our work is just beginning. Thank you so much for making it possible!

Thank you again. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this.

With love, Jenny

May 18, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 17

Dear Friends,

It is mid-weekend now in China so we are not getting a daily call from the ministry. But I do have further information to share with you.

We have now reached every affected institution, with the exception of Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture where the orphanage is said to house 52 children. We will let you know as soon as we make contact.

It turns out the Mianzhu SWI, which we’d had trouble reaching, was leveled in the quake. There was one fatality, an elderly resident. Thankfully, all of the children were in community foster care and all are fine.

As of today (Saturday) there were 28,881 people confirmed dead. There were a very small number of live rescues, but the teams have not given up hope. Cities like Mianyang have become refugee centers. 20,000 homeless who have come on foot from nearby towns are living in the local stadium; many more thousands have no place to go. 4.7 million homes have been destroyed. 169,000 people are injured.

Ma Lang tells us that although the rescue resources keeping coming in, one concern is the uneven distribution of much needed goods. “Counties and townships that have been the focus in media coverage receive more resources (sometimes more than enough); while in some other areas, there is little. In Qingchuan, people are surviving on one bottle of water and two cookies per day.”

In the schools that did not collapse (almost 7,000 were destroyed) the education bureaus are working to care for displaced children. They need tents, blankets, masks, rice, noodles, oil, flashlights, disposable underwear and antiseptic wipes. Many of those items and the items are requested by the welfare institutions are no longer available in Chengdu.

With the funds you have donated, HTS has a team of volunteer shoppers scouring Chengdu and we have a network of staff and volunteers seeking out needed items throughout China.

Today, with your help, we purchased 100 large refugee tents to house children who are in need of shelter. We have arranged to purchase more later this week but want to be sure we can properly distribute first. It is not easy to find goods now or to get them where they need to go. But everyone is working together to help the children.

As you have heard, this tragic event has both killed children and created orphans. A group of new orphans has been transported to Chengdu. We expect to have more information soon.

Meanwhile, the orphanage in Chengdu experienced a magnitude 5.9 aftershock yesterday (there have been 23 major aftershocks ranging from 5-6.9 on the Richter Scale!) and is preparing, if necessary, to move the children completely out of what was considered to be the most solid building. They have requested tents, which we are providing immediately.

Here are answers to some of your questions, the best we can offer right now:

How can one donate goods? We do not have the means to facilitate bringing goods into the country or distributing them where they are needed. If you are in China and have access to the following items and have means to deliver them to the Chengdu airport, please contact me: folding cots & cribs, 100 or more blankets, 100 or more pairs of children’s shoes, 100 or more large tarpaulins, 2 cases or more of children’s antibiotics (Zithromax, Amoxycillin, Penicillin, Klarithromycin, Erythromycin, Augmentin), 2 cases or more of anti-diarrheal meds (Charcoal Tablets, Kaolin), 2 cases or more of children’s anti-cold and cough meds (Dimetapp, Actifed, Robitussin) and/or 4 cases or more of rehydration salts/liquids (Pedialyte, Gatorade, Gastrolyte, ORS, Pocari Sweat). Please understand, we appreciate your wish to send items but we are not a relief agency (though we’re starting to feel like one!) and we just don’t have the mechanism or means to move your goods where they will do good. The very best way to help is to donate funds.

How many children will we help? We can’t yet know. There are not yet statistics that separate affected children from adults. There are not yet statistics regarding the numbers of new orphans, numbers of affected orphans, numbers of displaced children who will eventually be reunited with their families. We will provide when we can.

How can one adopt newly orphaned children? It is too early to know how many orphans have been created by the disaster. There is also much desire among the Chinese people to provide loving homes for the children who’ve lost their parents. The government’s first priority is to take care of the children’s urgent needs – to provide them with shelter, food, medical care and a nurturing environment. Half the Sky is doing its best to support this process. There will then be efforts to reunite children with relatives. Eventually, if parents or relatives can’t be located, the children will be placed for adoption. Several hundred Chinese citizens have already submitted applications to the Sichuan Civil Affairs Bureau!

I am told that many companies (was specifically informed about Microsoft and Citibank) will match employee gifts for earthquake relief. Please check to see if your company will double your gift!

Your donations to support relief efforts for the children have been so generous. It is deeply moving to see how many people care.

with love, Jenny

 
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