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Special> Wenchuan Quake:5 Years Later> Exclusive
UPDATED: May 13, 2013 NO. 20 MAY 16, 2013
Micro-Charity on the Way
Social media helps Ya'an quake relief
By Chen Ran

HELP FROM AFAR: Relief goods including tents and folded beds from Beijing are received by Tianquan Middle School staff in quake-hit Sichuan Province 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 teacher at Tianquan Middle School in quake-hit Ya'an City, southwest China's Sichuan Province, 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 Ya'an on April 20, leaving 196 dead, 21 missing and more than 13,400 injured.

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

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

Point to point

Upon receiving the quake news, July Gu, Li's high school classmate who has lived in Macao since 2011, donated 200 yuan ($31) to One Foundation initiated by Chinese movie star Jet Li. "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 to see whether we could raise money from friends via microblogging sites or WeChat, a social messaging service, and then send it directly to the quake zone via express delivery," she told Beijing Review.

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

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

Li and her friends raised money and used their vehicles to ferry relief goods including food, water, mosquito repellent and disinfectant directly to affected people in south Beijing.

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

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

Gu and Li resorted to social media networks to raise funds for their quake relief mission. 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 of friends whom we didn't know," Li said.

She 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 microblog post by a former student of Xue, saying Tianquan Middle School in hard-hit Tianquan County needs relief goods. Tianquan was only 35 km away from the epicenter in Lushan County. The quake rendered 90 percent of its houses inhospitable.

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