Charitable deeds should be done without publicity.
This my friend James Jao believes is a traditional Chinese virtue, and he has engraved it in his mind as one of life's philosophies. I agree.
But after an enlightening weekend tour of Sichuan's earthquake zone, we decided to put aside that belief for a while. Our desire was to share what we were doing in a ruined primary school - bring hope, more help and assistance to kids enveloped in the scarred mountains.
It began half year ago when I was reporting the earthquake. In the ruins of Hongbai Primary School of Shifang, one of the severely hit cities near the epicenter, I found a dozen paintings by kids, which were themed "Green Earth" and "World Full of Love."
It was the third day after the quake. Homeless people were flocking to the town where the school was located, most of the buildings were flattened and corpses scattered everywhere. The town resembled a battlefield.
I was touched by the themes of the paintings drawn by the six-grade kids in the mountains. I carefully retrieved them from the ruins and decided to auction them, donating the proceeds to the suffering villagers and kids.
Jao recently bought the first painting for 100,000 yuan ($14,490) at a charitable dinner organized in Beijing. And 10 days ago, Jao set up a micro-fund in his name to bring the various cultures together by improving English teaching in the school.
We want to make difference. Just as Jao said: "This program is about humans, about cultural exchanges, and opening a new window for the teachers and kids in the mountains."
We decided to let the locals have a decisive say on how the fund should be used. We let them frame the regulations on its management and application procedures for the teachers.
And we are encouraging them to organize an "English Cultural Festival" every semester. We are also looking at more ideas on how the fund can be used.
We will do every thing in a transparent way using the Internet. All documents and even minutes of meetings will be posted on a website. Apart from its cultural content, this approach is also about education. It is about transparency, vital during any stage of the post-quake recovery.
I am shy of getting a little publicity in this cause. In reporting on disasters, journalists put themselves at great risk to get exclusive, real-time stories. But we must also put in that extra mile to help the victims.
I still have more paintings in hand. I appeal for more efforts and innovative ideas to show our love and care for the people of Sichuan, especially those in the mountains.
This is my first appeal: Help those in the mountains. The earthquake brought massive losses to some cities but the villagers in the mountains suffered most. Most of the cities have highways making it relatively easy for aid and volunteers to reach them. This however, is not the case with some villages, still locked out.
My second appeal is: Let your love be long lasting. The coming three years will be difficult, especially for those made homeless who will have to find a safe place to rebuild their homes.
And my third appeal concerns innovation and diversity. Please make your contributions innovative and properly targeted. One of my colleagues already has his New Year resolution - to spend the coming Spring Festival in Sichuan together with his family. His reason is simple: we can help locals by being with them,
From the target perspective, my China Daily colleagues have voluntarily set an example: we have identified 30 poor families in Pingwu county of Sichuan and we 30 colleagues have helped them set up personal bank accounts. We directly deposit money into their accounts. It is a life-long commitment and we have promised to help the kids until they are 18. Of course, apart from the money, we are constantly communicating with the kids and their parents.
If you find this works, please write to me. During my recent tour of Dujiangyan, a former tourist destination but now a "ghost city", a Shanghai volunteer left me with a long list for the needy coupled with the words:
"As winter is coming, they need warmth."
(China Daily 11/08/2008 page4)