I was raised with an acute awareness of the suffering of others. Giving and doing were always part of my childhood. And as I grew in my capacity to give and to serve, that impulse morphed into being a donor and, where I could, serving as a director or trustee for organizations whose missions I valued. I even helped start a few not-for-profit organizations from scratch.
And then, at 7:49 a.m. on April 14th, an earthquake struck Yushu County in the Qinghai Province of China. Yushu is a predominately Tibetan area on the border of Qinghai, Sichuan and the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The earthquake killed roughly 2,300 people; injured more than 10,000; and destroyed about 85 percent of the houses in Jiegu, a town of 100,000 people.
And with that I knew I had to do more. I had to do something other than write a check or opine thoughtfully at a conference table. I had to do more than provide pro bono services or volunteer to teach some students about leadership. Or start yet another organization.
So now I’m doing more: I’m going to Yushu.
In September, I’ll travel with Tamdin Wangdu of the Tibetan Village Project (TVP) to help victims of the earthquake by assisting in bringing in supplies. Tamdin and I will fly to Chengdu where we’ll purchase tents and load them into a truck for delivery to Yushu. If we drive straight from Chengdu, we should reach Yushu in about three days. We’ll then spend at least five days distributing tents and other supplies.
There’s a particular need for warmer, more durable tents for those left homeless by the quake. Initial aid distribution (by the government or under its direction) included one tent per family, regardless of the size of the family. So, for example, a family of eight has to share a single, 12 foot x 12 foot tent.
The average altitude in most earthquake-affected areas is about 13,000 feet (4000 meters) and the area is incredibly windy. Yushu is cold; overnight temperatures in the spring and summer hover around -5°C/23°F. Moreover, winter comes early to the Tibetan Plateau.
To help fund the effort, I’m hoping to raise $15,000 for additional tents; we hope they’ll last at least three years while homes are being rebuilt. (I’m using the crowd-sourced fundraising platform Firstgiving.com to make giving even easier.) TVP has found a factory in Chengdu that makes high quality tents for the Chinese military. The tents are 22 square meters in size; made from canvas, insulated with a cotton-like material; heavy enough to withstand rainstorms, snow and strong wind; and durable enough to last at least three years. These tents are ideal for families with children since they have space to store a few folding beds, a stove, and other necessities.
To spur this, I’ll match each dollar contributed one for one up to an additional $15,000. Each tent costs $345; $30,000 will buy a lot of tents.
I know. It feels like it’s been a hell of a year, a year where the Earth maybe has had it with us: earthquakes, floods, and that oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Just this past weekend, the New York Times documented the heart-breaking, unbearable conditions in Haiti. I know there are thousands of other calls on your attention and your money.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve never really participated in a broadcast, widespread fundraising effort like this.
But this feels different. The lack of attention this particular disaster has received, for example, is startling. A few really well informed folks I know completely missed the fact that this earthquake even happened. So a large part of my goal, beyond raising the money, is to bring attention to the fact that this happened, that these people are hurting, and that this need is there.
TVP is one of a handful of non-political, non-government organizations operating in the area. When they aren’t doing disaster relief, they’re dedicated to promoting sustainable development while preserving the rich cultural heritage of Tibet. When we’re in the area, we’ll also be meeting with local businesses, trying to help them re-establish themselves. Hands on relief work coupled with creating micro-enterprises; this is the kind of doing more I’ve been waiting to do for a very long time.
Related articles by Zemanta
- China Earthquake, Qinghai Relief: How You Can Help (huffingtonpost.com)
- China Pledges to Repair Quake-Damaged Monasteries (beliefnet.com)
- Over 400 dead in China quake (thehindu.com)
- Chinese earthquakes kill at least 589 (cbc.ca)
- Quake kills 400; destroys homes on Tibet plateau (calgaryherald.com)