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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sichuan Earthquake Memorial

The dilemma of helping the Mainlanders dawned on me once again few days ago, with a meeting amongst the delegates from the Chinese student clubs at the university. With half of the members missing, we are amongst strangers in the land of volunteer opportunities. With barely anyone available for the job of booking event location, I foolishly signed on. The eagerness slowly trickles into something much larger. Without further ado, all I can say is I ended up drafting the following speech for the Sichuan Earthquake Memorial, to be held this weekend at EBC
The shocking remnant of the Sichuan earthquake has all touched us one way or the other. The earthquake, registering an unforeseen magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter Scale, struck the Wenchuan county of Sichuan province in China on Monday May 12, 2008. This tragic event is the deadliest and strongest earthquake to hit China since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.

Similar to the destructive power witnessed at the coast of South East Asia in 2004, the strong tremors instantly reduced houses, apartments, schools, office buildings, shops and hospitals into rubbles. And further forced thousands of people to evacuate, fearing that the remaining buildings may collapse at any moment. Apart from the destruction, thousands of lives were lost instantly when the tremor struck, with a score of victims found daily as the rescue effort continues.

We heard reports of children with missing parents, grieving couples with missing spouses and siblings, expecting mothers passed away with unborn babies and children too traumatized to speak. As of June 5, the official figures stand at approximately 69,000 confirmed dead, and 373,000 injured, with 18,000 listed as missing. The earthquake left about 4.8 million people homeless, though the number could be as high as 11 million.

For the survivors, this tragic event not only left a permanent scar but also continue to traumatize them with resonating aftershocks, which occurred almost daily since May 12. For them, what is more devastating is living under the constant fear that the quake-made lakes may burst anytime, drowning thousands. And the sea of rotting corpses, capable of a widespread pandemic, to further hinder the rescue effort.

Despite the daily report of casualties, there is hope. There is hope thanks to the generous donation contributed by you and me. There is hope thanks to countless number of people worldwide, from people living abroad to the immediate Asian neighbors. Who contributed passionately to the relief effort. So the funds may be used institutionally to save lives and provide shelters, food, and medicine for the needy.

We are all a part of the ongoing relief effort. To illustrate this, we, the graduate and undergraduate student clubs at University of Victoria has so far raised more than three thousand dollars. In addition to that, there are a number of passionate students pledging to contribute further, bringing the total beyond four thousand dollars. This amount symbolizes our perpetual and unconditional love for the earthquake victims in China. It is in fact quite substantial when considering most of the donors are students and scholars. Some of whom volunteered today to realize this memorial.

We hope this event can further raise awareness so the hopes and dreams of the survivors will not diminish, but flourish in the months to come.
Irrespective of what others may have said, it is definitely worth the hassle. I think it as an opportunity to refine my vocabulary and to have a chance to know the many faces of the student clubs. To me, it is something worthwhile and may venture beyond pure socializing. :P

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