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Cover Stories Series 2011> Sichuan Reconstructed> Wenchuan in Retrospect> 2008
UPDATED: June 13, 2008 NO. 25 JUNE 19, 2008
Homes and Hope
Temporary settlements for the homeless in Dujiangyan are providing a way back to normal life for thousands of distraught quake victims

The camp is helping them do that. Each room is equipped with iron beds, chairs, a TV set and an electric fan. The residents receive daily necessities including sheets, cups, toothpaste, pens and food.

Ma Shan, together with his wife and a six-month-old daughter, moved into Unit 17 on May 27.

Ma told Beijing Review that the baby was receiving sufficient nutrition and growing healthily. He said the first word he would teach the baby would not be "daddy," but "thanks."

Thanks, is the most heard word in the community and the people who most deserve it are the volunteers, selflessly serving the needs of the quake victims.

Chen Gang, 27, from central China's Henan Province, has been helping build makeshift houses in Dujiangyan for three weeks. Chen drove thousands of miles to Sichuan to help with disaster relief. He played down his contribution, saying, "I just did what I could and what I should." When asked when he would return to Henan, he said he would not leave until all the victims had been assisted to resume their lives.

Aside from physical aid, the community also offers mental comfort in the form of a counseling center, set up by a Shanghai-based organization. Meng Yongjian, head of the center, told Beijing Review that most visitors were children, as they are more easily traumatized than adults. Through playing games and talking to counselors, many of the children have opened their hearts and become more vivacious, he said.

Chen Xinggui, a bookstore owner from Beijing, brought 1,000 books to the community. Children can borrow the books from a reading room by signing their names on a list.

The community does all it can to make new residents comfortable, according to Zhou. As soon as they move in, each person is given an identity card, which gives them access to all services within the settlement for free, including medical treatment, phone calls, postal services, banking and sports facilities such as basketball and badminton.

Moving out

Despite its comforts the community is just a temporary home. After three months quake victims are encouraged to leave the community and rebuild their lives, although they will be allowed to live there for another two years if necessary.

Many of them have already taken action to move away from the community. Some young residents have found jobs in the city while others are undergoing professional training organized by the community, in subjects such as childcare and catering. Zhou said more victims will be assisted in job-hunting through recommendations and job fairs.

For many of the children in the camp their time there has been a happy one. One seven-year-old boy told Beijing Review he felt happier than before as he had made so many new friends. With a community primary school in the settlement children are also able to continue their education.

By the end of May, a group of over 500 construction experts led by the National Development and Reform Commission had investigated rebuilding prospects for Dujiangyan. It is likely to become a reconstruction model for China. Shanghai, the city which is responsible for providing finance and help for Dujiangyan's reconstruction, has also vowed to offer aid to speed the city's rehabilitation.

In the meantime, another 50,000 square meters of makeshift houses have been built ready to resettle 7,000 to 8,000 victims of the quake whose houses were reduced to rubble, Zhou told Beijing Review. "I believe our big home will become even warmer and more comfortable," she said.

(Reporting from Dujiangyan)

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