Friday, May 30, 2008


Words have begun to escape me in the midst of these waves of tragedy and is what happened two days ago.


Qili Village
- In the middle of a village that was in the mid-impact range of the earthquake (only some of the houses are destroyed, most still stand with huge cracks in the walls, the kindergarten fell down, but the rest of the school is still standing, etc.), we gave out our second round of microloans. These loans were supposed to be given the day after the earthquake.

Today the mood is emotional - excited, celebratory, and mournful all at once. The borrowers have prepared a beautiful ceremony honoring our presence and relief work in their village. A man sings while his 6 year old daughter dances. We give out 8 more microloans...(a mere drop in the bucket of a tragedy displacing 5 million people, a part of my brain chides. my heart quiets it as we listen to the community planning its own period of reconstruction and regrowth. we can help in some small way.)

One of the women who received a loan for rabbits during the first lending ceremony stands up to speak. She tells us that when the earthquake hit, it destroyed the rabbit raising area and much of her roof. She sold the rabbits and raised a new roof, while sleeping in a tent in her courtyard. She is also currently putting her daughter through university, she proudly mentions.

I meet a boy who is now known in town as being the fastest child in kindergarten. When the ground began to tremble, he made it out first, followed the rest of the children. Then the school crumbled.

There are moments of hope, too. Our lending ceremony had to be moved next to the courtyard where it was held last time because the courtyard no longer exists. No earthquake damage here, it is now filled with a rabbit raising compound built by our youngest loan recipient, an 18 year old who has decided to stay in town and be the cashier of the lending project rather than migrate to an urban area and leave his family. His new compound withstood the earthquake, and his rabbits are fine. He was the one who had called me just after the first initial earthquake to check up on my safety and invite us back to the village.

The thousands of aftershocks that have struck in the weeks following the earthquake have felt unnerving and annoying from our 6th story high rise in Chengdu. In Qili, they continue to threaten lives. People point at crumbling walls and cracked ceilings and explain that a few more aftershocks will probably take them all the way down. There is no point in rebuilding right now if the earth is just going to keep shaking.

Selflessness - The Rabbit King and Queen (our community partners through the Rabbit King Poverty Alleviation Research Center) have orchestrated most of the relief efforts in their area since the earthquake, and we have been impressed and thankful. Then we saw their factory. Now we are stunned.

The entire factory (which includes their offices, dorms for workers, school rooms, cafeteria, and personal home) has crumbled. Most of their rabbits were either crushed or ran away. Their staff is working in a tent in the middle of an alley. In the midst of this, they took the time to organize a relief effort for foreigners and a miniature village. My heart and brain cannot come to terms with the depth of their selflessness.

They understand at a very deep level, however, how their ability to function as a business and organization affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of rural villagers in the area. Rabbit raising in villages relies on the supply chain that the Rabbit King orchestrates. Without him, his factory, and staff, their mini businesses and our microfinance project would flounder. With tears in her eyes the Rabbit Queen explained that they have always been the ones to give donations, to bring aid, to organize efforts...they are not accustomed to being in a position of need (another stunning statement coming from the two people who are literally China's pinnacle story of rags to riches).

We commit to trying to help them in any way we can as they rebuild their factory, knowing that they would be the last to directly ask for help.