Thursday, May 22, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 21-22

You will see below that there are preparations being made in many institutions to receive newly orphaned and displaced children.

There have been numerous media reports about the thousands of new orphans; we have received dozens of adoption inquiries here at Half the Sky (which has no involvement in adoption!)I really want to stress that many, many of these children you're hearing about will be reunited with family – if not parents, then living relatives. In rural China, especially, workers often leave their children with grandparents so that they can support their families by working in more prosperous areas. Many of the children do have parents – parents who are desperately trying to find their children. The government is keenly aware of this and, while there are many, many media reports of adoption programs and applications submitted for domestic adoption of the children,we don’t believe that any adoption procedures will be put into place before every means has been exhausted to find parents or other living relatives.

We, along with Ministry officials, are meeting with the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau on Monday and may have more information about the plans for transitional care of orphaned and displaced children. We are exploring how we can, working with other NGOs, best help care for the children in the interim and assist the government in its efforts to provide for their future.

Here is the current situation:
Chengdu CWI has been notified to prepare to receive 100 children; they expect that more may follow. At the same time, the orphanage has moved the children out-of-doors out of concern for safety. (photos on our website Half the Sky is working with local government and erecting a giant tent that can serve as shelter for orphaned and displaced children for as long as necessary. More news on this early next week.

Chengdu 2nd SWI - 35 senior citizens and 10 preschool-age orphans have been transferred there from Dujiangyan City. 40~50 more orphans will be arriving soon. They are in need of 50 beds, sets of bedding, as well as the same number of clothes for children between 5 and 7 years old. Before the arrival of those 45, the institution had 100+ children and 500+elderly people already. During aftershocks, they stayed in tents; but now,they have all moved back to the buildings.

Chengdu 3rd SWI – Caring for 30 children, all fine, not expecting new arrivals.

Wenjiang District SWI, Chengdu – Caring for only 4 children, all fine, not expecting new arrivals.

Dujiangyan SWI – All of the children are under good care and there is no shortage of food or any daily necessity. 12 new children were recently brought in, but they’ve been having much success in locating surviving family members and have high hopes for these children as well.

Luojiang County SWI, Deyang City – The children are being cared for in a shelter, including 6 new arrivals. They are expecting a 2 year-old and have asked for a crib as well as diapers, powdered milk and rice.

Deyang SWI – Has prepared to receive new children per instructions.

Nanchong 2nd SWI – They are caring for 27 children and are expecting another 20. They are sleeping in tents due to concerns about aftershocks. They ask for 10 tents, tarps and beds.

Cangxi SWI, Guangyuan City – They have some building damage. They have been advised that they may be receiving children from Qingchuan but this has not yet been confirmed by the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau.

I told you that 13 of the 24 children brought to the Zitong SWI had been reunited with family. Today I was told there were 12. Two signs hang at the institution. One says “There are only 20 children from Xiao BaPrimary School in An'Xian in our institution. There are no children from Beichuan. If you are looking for those from Beichuan, please go to (name)Hotel. If you are looking to adopt, please come in 3 months." The other,poignantly says, "Yan: only her mother was home; XianLin & LiGang are brothers: only their father was home: Cheng: her father is working inXinjiang; Dan: her parents are working in Zhejiang; Jun: about 2 years old, parents whereabouts unknown; Zhou: about 1 year old, parents whereabouts unknown. Needs: Books to read; stable place to live. Emotional needs: their family...their relatives."

Mianyang – The Jiuzhou Stadium that houses 20,000 refugees is now,considering the situation, well-organized and, beyond trash bags and disposable gloves, there seem to be no unmet material needs. While there were, at first, about 1,700 children staying in the “inner circle” of the stadium (on the first floor inside the building), most of those childrenhave either been reunited with family or transferred to smaller shelter sin Mianyang. There are only about 130 children remaining. There are volunteer counselors and psychologists for these children. The “inner circle” is strictly guarded by police, soldiers, and volunteers. Mr.Liang JianHua, a volunteer leader and veteran, has been supervising care of the children in the “inner circle” from the very beginning, with the help of about a dozen volunteers. According to Ma Lang, he seems to be an extremely competent, kind, and devoted person.

Meanwhile, for children less well-served, Half the Sky is moving goods like crazy and working hard to initiate the next, and most important phase of our efforts – trauma counseling and care for displaced and orphaned children.

Thanks to help from dozens of volunteers, we’ve delivered about 100 of the promised tents, cases of blankets, tarps, clothes, diapers, food and medicines to several institutions. There will be many more arrivals and deliveries over the coming days. We have received permits to enter and provide aid to one of the more inaccessible hard-hit areas tomorrow (Aba County) and are working on helping in Li and Mao counties, also hard-hit.

We have begun the process of distributing to temporary children’s shelters. We give special thanks to the Sichuan employees of Silk RoadTelecommunications, many of whom helped us load and unload trucks and haveoffered to aid in distribution and logistics all around the province.

I’ve got lots more to report but have run out of steam and time. I’ll beback tomorrow with more, I promise.

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