UMCOR partner starts earthquake relief in China

The Amity Foundation, a partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is expanding its relief efforts to earthquake survivors in China’s Sichuan Province.

Amity staff members have been on the ground since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Ya’an, including Lushan and Baoxing counties, on April 20. Nearly 200 people were killed and almost 2 million affected by the disaster, which also damaged roads and hundreds of thousands of houses.

A local church group brings relief supplies to people in Sichuan Province following the April 20 earthquake in central China. PHOTO COURTESY CHINA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL

Qiu Zhonghui—top executive of Amity, an organization founded by Christians in China—met May 6 in Ya’an with leaders of the Sichuan People’s Political Consultative Committee, which has acted as a partner and coordinator for a variety of Amity programs in the province.

Mr. Qiu and other Amity staff also met with the vice mayor and secretary general of the Ya’an government, reported She Hongyu, an Amity Foundation executive and director of its research and development center.

Amity has been using its website and Chinese social media platforms to get the word out about its response to the earthquake, Ms. She said.

Ms. She said that Chinese government officials have an “open attitude” toward the involvement of nongovernmental organizations in earthquake relief. “They promised to give as much support as they could to enable smooth implementation of Amity’s relief work,” Ms. She wrote in an email. “The two meetings held will make Amity’s work easier on the ground.”

Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, the parent agency of UMCOR, said he is impressed by “the very thorough follow-up from Amity” on earthquake relief—especially with Mr. Qiu’s visit to the region to ensure recognition by the government of the organization’s relief efforts there. By working with partners like Amity, he added, “we can really make sure that the dollars given by our donors are well implemented.”

Mr. Kemper was part of a United Methodist delegation that arrived in Shanghai the day of the earthquake. He told officials of the China Christian Council that the United Methodist Committee on Relief would provide two $10,000 grants for earthquake relief “as an expression of our solidarity.” One grant was for Amity and the other for the council’s social service department.

Both Amity and UMCOR are part of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and affiliated organizations that work together “to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalized people.”

‘Extreme hardships’

When the April 20 earthquake occurred, Amity immediately dispatched two staff members to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, to begin making provisions for humanitarian aid. Two more staff members arrived the next day and the first emergency relief supplies were distributed at schools in Tianquan County.

How to help box:

Donate to earthquake relief in China through UMCOR at International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450, http://alturl.com/6upci/.

Amity set aside approximately $324,270 U.S. for relief work and began an appeal to friends and partners. The Protestant church in Ya’an has provided storage space for relief supplies and contacts to help distribute supplies around the affected area.

The early response to the earthquake was hampered by aftershocks, which launched a cascading effect of landslides and traffic jams. On April 23, an Amity supply truck was forced to spend the night on the road before arriving in Baoxing County.

“Baoxing was one of [the] worst hit counties where 90 percent of the houses were uninhabitable and threatened of falling over,” Amity reported on its website. “Electrical stoppage for most surrounding villages caused extreme hardships for the villagers. Thus, Amity’s humanitarian aid was most welcome.”

That aid, supported by contributions from Chinese corporations and individuals, included 500 rolls of tarpaulin, 750 military-standard quilts and 30 bags of rice.

Quilts, rice and other supplies were distributed in various places that week. On April 26, for example, a relief convoy distributed 15 tons of rice, 1,000 barrels of cooking oil and 500 quilts in the 14 villages around Baihe, Maohe Village, Mingshan County and Sijing Village, Tianquan County.

Two Amity staff members participated in an information-sharing round-table meeting April 28 in Chengdu, and Amity continues to work in several rural villages, including Ziyun Village, Baoxing Township, which is nearly inaccessible because of difficult roads.

Xie Ying, Amity’s research coordinator, and Li Juan, coordinator of Amity’s integrated development programs, left for Sichuan Province on May 6 to join the ground staff. The two women will help with needs assessment and the distribution of more relief materials.

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