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Rescue work rewarding for female volunteer

By LI MENGHAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-13 08:54
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Su Qin during a flood rescue mission in Lujiang, Anhui province, in July 2020. CHINA DAILY

By turning her passion for outdoor sports into a commitment to volunteerism, Su Qin, one of the few female rescue team leaders, has successfully carried out several hundred missions at home and abroad over the past decade.

In 2003, Su stepped into the realm of outdoor sports, where she met a member of the Blue Sky Rescue Team, a professional nongovernmental volunteer rescue organization in China, and found a way to practice her helpfulness and caring. Upon formation of the Hefei rescue team in 2012, she became a member and, three years later, she was selected team leader.

"The majority of the initial team members were outdoor enthusiasts, given their wilderness survival and escape skills were suited for rescue operations," the 44-year-old said.

She recalled a rescue in a mountainous area of Anhui province in July 2020, where she found floodwaters reaching a depth of 8 meters and furniture floating on the second floor of a building.

"When evacuating the residents, an elderly person rushed out and lisped that his bedridden spouse was still at home. When our team member carried the elderly woman from upstairs to the lifeboat, he was completely drained of energy," Su said.

However, Su said although tired, they had a sense of accomplishment when seeing "the eyes of the trapped shining upon seeing us". That feeling mirrored hers from the previous night, when she led the underwater search and rescue operations. Despite the dangerous conditions, including slippery rocks, frigid temperatures and low visibility, she found fulfillment when completing the task and hearing the public express their gratitude.

As one of the 89 female members in the Hefei rescue team — representing about one in five members — Su said that except for physical strength, she found no disparity in rescue capability between males and females. She added that at times, females can take advantage of their smaller body size and composure.

Last year, when two 7.8 magnitude earthquakes hit Turkiye on Feb 6, the team launched an emergency rescue response. Within one day, more than 100 members from across the nation had set off for the disaster-stricken areas, with Su serving as chief coordinator.

"After flying for more than 10 hours, we arrived at the site and saw a tortured city, prompting everyone to carry out rescue operations as quickly as possible. As the debris became increasingly narrow toward the bottom, only our petite female rescue workers could continue the operation," she said. "Within a single day, I experienced more than 100 aftershocks, with the largest measuring a magnitude of 6.4.

"I'm frequently asked if I'm scared. My answer is definitely yes. When danger approaches, fear is a natural response for anyone, but once at the rescue site, I'm too busy to dwell on fear."

At work, Su is a successful businesswoman running an outdoor supplies store. She devotes much of her leisure time to being a considerate rescue team leader, taking the lead to conduct disaster relief work, but that sometimes means she can spend less time with her family.

On Feb 7, two days before Chinese New Year's Eve, Su was about to go to bed when she received a phone call saying a 77-year-old woman had been missing for over 10 hours. More than 20 family members had been searching outside for nearly eight hours, but they still had no clue where she was, and the dropping temperature exacerbated the situation.

Su's husband helped her pack a bag and inform other volunteers. Twenty team members were gathered within 30 minutes to start a search. After two hours using surveillance, road patrols and infrared drone searches, the elderly woman was found 30 kilometers from her home.

"The moment her children saw her, they hugged her tightly with tears rolling down their faces," Su said. "All the efforts are worthwhile, and it is the best Chinese New Year's gift for us."

She said she feels grateful and lucky for her family's support of her dream.

"I will devote the rest of my life to voluntary causes," Su said. "Even when I become too old to participate in front-line rescue work, I will continue to provide backup support."

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