Interview with He Wen, the leader of Amity Ludian Earthquake rescue team
Question: Is there anything special in this particular rescuing mission comparing with those before?
He Wen: When compared with the earthquakes before, the magnitude of the Yunnan Ludian earthquake is relatively low. However, due to the fact that the epicenter located on a rough terrain and the high risk of some secondary disasters besides aftershocks during rainy days, the earthquake not only resulted in serious casualties but also skyrocketed the difficulty of the rescuing mission the response teams had to face. Such actual situations significantly increased the difficulty of the delivery of the relief supplies as well as the flow of the imperative materials. Furthermore, since the residents in the affected areas mainly live in wooden and clay houses which locate on the relatively unstable grounds or on the edge of the cliff, many of them were badly damaged or destroyed permanently and thus caused massive human casualties. The situation has brought difficulty to the rescue. Based on the two perspectives described above, the victims would not be able to put up temporary tents in their own back yards this time, instead, they could only be settled in the centralized shelter. Therefore, we believed that what we ought to do first was to visit the settlements and to get to know their problems in order to find solutions for those who lost their homes. What’s more, we were still trying our best to take everyone’s problems into our consideration by setting out to some areas that many rescue teams tended to ignore in order to offer help and support to the residents there.
Q: During the Wenchuan earthquake, Amity Foundation paid special attention to the countryside; in Yushu earthquake, beef and solar cells were supplied to the Tibetan victims. Amity Foundation has always been focusing on following the local customs and the demands of the victims in the affected areas and by then, how is this spirit reflected in Ludian earthquake?
He Wen inspects the processing
of the distribution
He Wen: Yes! Ever since Amity Foundation started to provide disaster relief in 1989, we have always prioritized respecting local customs and focusing on the demand of the victims. According to our survey, in Ludian earthquake, some old people and children became exhausted after more than 10 hours of non-stop walking to get away from the disaster. Furthermore, too much cup noodles had caused metabolism disorder. Therefore, we considered it a priority to provide them with hot meals. We sent them rice and oil, hoping that these supplies could help them overcome the difficulties. As a result, Amity Foundation became the first rescue team bringing rice and oil to the victims.
Q: Since Amity Foundation has abundant working experiences, there must be some principles which every operation should follow. What are they and what is the most important one among them?
He Wen: The most important one would undoubtedly be carrying out work based on demands. The continuous process of disaster relief can be divided into two steps, the emergency response and the reconstruction after the disaster. No matter in what stage of the process, our first step will always be doing a survey to find out the victims’ demands. Since the demands of victims alter very often, we not only have to regularly make some adjustments to the plans but also have to routinely do the survey. Furthermore, the disaster relief operation should be in accordance with the nature of the organization while making use of all resources we can find and allocating them rationally. To conclude, we have to base our rescue plan on the surveys in order to make our rescue operation more accurate and more effective.
Q: Currently, the rescue operation is still in the stage of emergency response. Are there any future plans for the reconstruction of the affected areas?
He Wen: Disasters often strike in a flash but always have profound influences. It may take a very long time for the victims to recover. I have noticed that the Ludian earthquake has brought a large number of human casualties. The relatively severe cases have been properly settled. However, those with minor injuries have not yet been appropriately dealt with. Therefore, Amity Foundation would particularly make some efforts in this aspect. During the process of reconstruction, Amity Foundation will also devote itself into cooperating with the local people to rebuild their homeland by promoting the recovery of the victim’s daily life and production capability.
Here, I would also like to point out that Amity Foundation is not simply a provider of disaster relief. As a professional charitable organization of nearly 30 years, we, Amity Foundation also bear the responsibilities of establishing the spirit of public welfare in the society. We believe that the best way to help those in need is to provide them with respect and correct guidance while trying to promote the idea that one helps oneself by helping others. In this way, the recipients of our programs will be both capable and willing to become a participant of public welfare establishment. The role change will not only make it easier for them to actively adjust their daily lives, recover their self-confidence and move on from the pains but will also make it possible to facilitate social development projects substantially. Therefore, the implications in our projects are much more meaningful than the superficial material support itself.
Translation by Timothy Qiu