|United Methodists respond to China earthquake|
Yue Yaomeng (left) oversees the loading of tarps that will
be distributed by Amity Foundation to survivors of an earthquake that
struck the Sichuan Province of
China on May 12. A UMNS photo courtesy of Yue Yaomeng.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
May 15, 2008
United Methodists are working with a longtime partner in China to
provide immediate relief to those affected by the massive earthquake in
On May 15, China’s state-run media announced that the death toll from
the May 12 earthquake, which registered 7.9 on the Richter scale, could
reach as high as 50,000. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Wenchuan
county, about 60 miles from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.
Both the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, including the
United Methodist Committee on Relief, and Church World Service are
responding to the earthquake through the Amity Foundation.
Diane Allen, who heads the board’s China Program, said Amity “has been
very swift” in both providing initial aid and giving ongoing reports to
its overseas partners. The Amity Foundation is an independent Chinese
voluntary organization created in 1985 by Chinese Christians to promote
education, social services, health and rural development.
Amity’s project officer for disaster programs, Yue Yaomeng, had arrived
in Chengdu less than five hours after the earthquake, which occurred
around 2:30 p.m. local time May 12.
Allen said that Amity immediately released 1 million yuan, about
$145,000, to purchase 6,000 bottle cases of drinking water, 2,400 cases
of dried instant noodles and 1,700 plastic tarps for temporary shelter.
Three trucks were sent to Dujiangyan, where hundreds of students were
trapped when several schools collapsed during the earthquake.
Distribution of water, rice, tarps
“Amity's relief efforts will concentrate in Sichuan Province, as well
as neighboring Gansu and Sha'anxi provinces that have also been
affected by the quake,” Allen said. Those efforts will include the
immediate distribution of drinking water, rice, quilts and plastic
Allen has visited Sichuan Province in the past, and she described it as a
mountainous region that is “spectacularly beautiful.” But the
mountainous terrain, she added, makes it hard to get vehicles there,
particularly after the rain. Three days after the earthquake, rescuers
were still cut off from some of the affected villages.
Amity Foundation has already collected 120,000 yuan
(US$17,300) for earthquake relief through its domestic Internet site and
by setting up donation sites throughout Nanjing city. A UMNS photo by
For long-term relief, Amity has drawn up plans for a post-crisis phase
that includes the reconstruction of houses, collapsed schools, township
hospitals and village medical clinics, as well as of drinking water and
According to Amity's official appeal, its relief work, administered
through its local partners, will concentrate on families whose homes are
uninhabitable because of structural damage and collapse, those who have
lost more than two-thirds of their possessions, and the extremely
impoverished in the affected regions.
Overseas relief is critical for the earthquake victims, Allen pointed
out, because despite its economy, China “has one of the largest gaps
between the rich and poor of any nation on earth.”
“China's singular focus on the economy in the last 20 years has created a
litany of social ills,” she explained. “There is a great disparity
between those who live in the poor remote western provinces of China
(where the earthquake occurred) and the relatively rich urban east,
which showcases Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, all
large and prosperous cities.”
According to World Bank estimates, about 45 percent of China's
population live on $2 a day, with much of that population in the
earthquake region. Migrant workers have flocked to the cities, sometimes
leaving their children with grandparents in rural villages.
“Consequently, there are villages where adults of working age are
clearly in the minority, as they have had to make the hard choice to go
elsewhere for work, in hopes of returning in a few years, a little
better off,” Allen said. “When an earthquake like this one hits a
village where the majority of residents are the very young and the very
old, it is doubly tragic.”
Ken Guest, a United Methodist and an assistant professor in the
Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Baruch College in New York,
agreed that the earthquake has made a bad economic situation worse in
what is a beautiful and fertile but basically rural region. “Sichuan
Province is one of the poorest provinces in the country,” he said. “A
lot of the young people from these areas leave to find work.”
Guest, who has studied immigration patterns from China’s Fuzhou Province
to New York, noted that when Chinese from Fuzhou go to the New York
area in search of restaurant jobs, they rent their fields to internal
migrants from Sichuan.
Sichuan also is a “hot spot” because it borders Tibet on the southwest
end. “It’s an area of concern for the government in general in terms of
political stability,” he said.
Donations to UMCOR’s relief efforts in China can be made to
International Disaster Response, China Earthquake, UMCOR Advance
#982450. Checks can be dropped in church offering plates or mailed
directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, N.Y. 10087-9068. Write the
Advance number and name on the memo line of the check. Credit-card
donations are accepted online at www.givetomission.org or by phone at (800) 554-8583.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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