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UPDATED: May 3, 2013 Web Exclusive
Micro-Charity on the Way
Social media helps Ya'an quake relief
By Chen Ran

MISSION COMPLETE: Relief goods for Tianquan Middle School are received on April 28 (COURTESY OF VIVIAN LI)

"We got the folded beds and put them all into tents. Thank you so much!" said a phone call to Vivian Li, 29, a housewife in Beijing on April 28.

The voice at the other end was Xue Chunzhi, a politics teacher from Tianquan Middle School in quake-hit Ya'an City, some 2,000 km away from Beijing. Later that day, Li also received the pictures that Xue took on the scene.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Lushan County in Ya'an City, southwest China's Sichuan Province, on April 20, leaving 196 dead, 21 missing and 13,484 injured as of April 24.

It took Li and her friends six days to complete the relief mission--from finding Xue to confirming Xue had received the first batch of relief goods.

"What a relief!" Li told Beijing Review. "I hope the rest of the goods would be transferred and received smoothly, too."

Point to point

Upon knowing the quake news, July Gu, Li's high school classmate who has lived in Macao since 2011, donated 200 yuan ($31) to One Foundation for quake relief. "Despite donating money, I still feel that I should do something for them," Gu recalled.

Among the most needed relief goods including food, water and tents, Gu noticed that sanitary napkins are important but often neglected.

"I talked to Vivian and see whether we could raise money from friends via social media networks like Weibo or WeChat, and then send them directly to the quake zone via express delivery," she told Beijing Review.

Li agreed with Gu's idea without any prior consultations.

In fact, point-to-point donation was not new to Li, who launched her very first relief mission last summer, after 79 people was killed by strong rains and landslides in her hometown Beijing.

Li and her friends raised money and sent relief goods including food, water, mosquito repellant and disinfectant directly to disaster zones in southern Beijing by their own vehicles back and forth.

"I started to realize that point-to-point donation was really helpful for disaster relief," Li noted.

"A lot of friends supported Li's move last year. They prepared goods and worked very hard. It was very effective," Gu said.

Given the epicenter's location, Gu and Li resorted to social media networks for fund raising. They had collected 9,180 yuan ($1,445) in less than 12 hours as of the morning of April 22. Li went to supermarkets to purchase 28 boxes of relief goods including 18 boxes of sanitary napkins, three boxes of baby disinfectant wipes and seven boxes of diapers. It cost 5,776.7 yuan ($910) and left 3403.3 yuan ($535).

"Our friends are supportive. Some of the donors are friends' friends whom we didn't know," Li said.

Li posted every step--the donation money, relief goods, packing and delivery receipts--online via social media. "We'd like to make this move as transparent as possible. We shall prove worthy of donors' trust," Li explained.

Soon after delivering the first batch of relief goods, Li read a Weibo post by Xue's former student, saying the Tianquan Middle School needs relief goods. Tianquan County was only 35 km away from the epicenter. The quake rendered 90 percent of its houses inhospitable.

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