Notes from the Field

A Silver Lining in Post-Earthquake China

June 10, 2009

A year has passed since the Sichuan Earthquake and, while much has been accomplished, there is still so much more to be done. Last month I again had the opportunity to visit the earthquake affected area along with several Give2Asia colleagues and donors. As I have been from the start, I was impressed by the resilience and optimism of the people we met. Despite the loss of their homes, jobs and, in some cases, loved ones, they are moving forward and working hard to rebuild their lives.

Most of the 5.5 million people who lost their homes in the earthquake are still living in temporary shelter communities, and many of these people will never be able to return to their original towns and villages because of the damage done by the quake. While the government is providing some subsidies for home reconstruction, many of the victims do not have the means to raise the additional funds needed to rebuild their homes. However, this is just the start to the challenges the survivors face. The economic hardships created by the disaster make it difficult for these families to send their children to school, which will have a long-term impact of the prospects for their children’s futures. Income-generating opportunities are limited in many of the affected communities, resulting in significant migration of young men and women looking for work in other parts of China. The people there need skills training, capital, and leadership training to reinvigorate the area’s economy.

Yet, the earthquake has had a big impact in China, helping to spur new charitable giving across the country and creating a sense of volunteerism and community involvement as people from across China have done what they can to help the survivors. Indeed, according to government statistics charitable giving in China has increased ten-fold since the earthquake, and many believe this has helped to leapfrog Chinese philanthropy to a new, sustained level that will increase the impact that the government and NGOs have in helping those in need. This may be the one silver lining that has come from the disaster.

Give to Give2Asia’s China Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund.

Dr. Carter Tseng is Give2Asia’s Chairman of the China Earthquake Committee. Founded by The Asia Foundation in 2001, Give2Asia provides advised grantmaking and consulting to philanthropists and donors. Read a report on Give2Asia’s work in earthquake-affected areas. For more information on Give2Asia’s work, please contact Gillian Yeoh at gyeoh@give2asia.org or 415.743.3336.

View all posts by Carter Tseng

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