Devastating Earthquake Brings Immediate Response from the Amity Foundation
By Diane Allen*
Within five hours of the May 12 earthquake near Chengdu, China, the Amity Foundation, a Chinese social service organization and Global Ministries' partner, had sent staff to the city to initiate relief efforts. By 7:00 that evening, Yue Yaomeng, Amity's project officer for disaster programs, began to assess crisis relief.
Amity released an immediate one million yuan (approx. US$145,000) to be available for relief aid. This was used in part to purchase 144,000 bottles of drinking water, nearly 29,000 packs of dried instant noodles, and 1,700 plastic tarps for temporary shelters. This life-giving cargo went from Chengdu to bring supplies to surrounding areas.
Amity estimates that long-term relief work will last well into 2009 and include projects in Sichuan and neighboring Gansu and Sha'anxi provinces which were also hard hit. Long-term projects will include the of rebuilding collapsed schools, village medical clinics, township hospitals, and drinking and crop irrigations systems.
Nearly 20,000 people have lost their lives, and tens of thousands were injured in the worst earthquake to hit China in 32 years. The quake, an enormous 7.9 on the Richter scale, occurred in Wenchuan County, Sichuan province. This is was province, roughly 60 miles from the provincial capital, Chengdu, in western China. While the physical shock of the earthquake lasted only minutes, the effects of the devastation will be felt for years to come.
The quake destroyed nearly 80 percent of buildings in the hardest-hit region. It was followed by landslides, power failures, and a near breakdown of communication due to destroyed telephone lines, buckled roads, and heavy rain. In Dujiangyan city, near the epicenter, a school with 1,000 students collapsed and only 58 were rescued alive.
Help with Trauma
While on the road to the worst affected areas to deliver critical emergency relief, Yaomeng notified Amity of the need for qualified social workers to help survivors cope with the emotional traumas and physical needs that a disaster of this magnitude creates. In response, Amity has begun to organize for qualified volunteer social workers to help in these areas of need.
Sichuan 's Christians
Sichuan province has over 250,000 baptized Christians, 150 churches, one seminary, and 700 meeting points where Christians gather to pray together, sing hymns, and study God's word.
The Rev. Yuan Shiguo, general secretary of the Sichuan Christian Council, reported that many churches have been destroyed and members of the Christian community hurt in the earthquake. Because of the remoteness of some of the most affected areas, it may be weeks, even months, before the Sichuan Christian Council can assess the real damage done to churches and meeting points in the province. At that time the China Christian Council, the national umbrella of Protestant churches in China, will most likely put out an international appeal.
Meanwhile says Rev. Yuan, "I would like to invite all of you to keep praying for our churches, Christians, and our people."
How You Can Help
United Methodists are encouraged to give generously to UMCOR Advance #982450, International Disaster Response, China Earthquake. Gifts to the China Earthquake response will go towards Amity's work. Amity has issued an appeal for ten million yuan, nearly $1.5 million, to carry out this work.
*Allen is a United Methodist missionary serving as China Program Associate with the United Methodist China Program. She can be supported through The Advance #10163Z.