Beijing-based Jasmin Gong-Fleischer was participating in an event called "Germany and China – Moving Ahead Together" in Chongqing when suddenly an oppressive feeling struck her. When she saw the lamps starting to wiggle back and forth, old memories of the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake popped up in her mind. Intuitively she hurried to get out of the building as fast as she could.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (back) poses for photo with the children during his visit to Sichuan in June 2008. He later announced the German financial and logistical support for the reconstruction of eight schools in Sichuan. [chinadaily.com.cn]
A few moments later the streets were crowded with thousands of people. They were witnessing one of the darkest days of Chinese history. "Everyone knew something bad had happened, but no one could tell how bad," says Gong-Fleischer.
The Chinese-German event in Chongqing had been intended to foster the cultural and economic ties of the two countries. In the aftermath of May 12，2008，the bilateral collaboration adopted an unforeseen course: Five days after the quake a charity concert with Chinese and German bands, which realized more than 10 million euros (110 million yuan) of donations, took place.
And when German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Sichuan one month later he announced German financial and logistical support for the reconstruction of eight schools in Sichuan that had been destroyed by the earthquake.
Most of the school buildings will be re-erected by the beginning of the school year in September 2009. Seven of the schools receive financial support by German companies, while the reconstruction of the Nanying Primary School in Guangyuan city is directly financed by the German Foreign Ministry.
"One year after the Sichuan earthquake the new main building of the Nanying School is almost completed," Mirko Kruppa from the German consulate in Chengdu says. On May 13 the topping out ceremony will be held. "Three experts from Germany have been on the spot during the past few months in order to supervise the security standards of the new building and to collaborate with a local architectural office," Kruppa explains.
He is confident that the Chinese-German school cooperation will continue: "We help the eight schools to arrange partnerships with German counterparts in order to establish long-term ties of private cooperation." For the Nanying school there are already three primary schools in Germany that are interested in a formal partnership and a students exchange, according to Kruppa.
To establish enduring ties of friendship and intercultural exchange is also the aim of the private help initiative that Gong-Fleischer coordinates for the German Embassy School in Beijing. After having become aware of the dimension of the disaster which she had witnessed from afar in Chongqing, she organised a help project for the Yinghua Middle School in Shifang city. 80 pupils and teachers of the school had been killed when the building collapsed.