Earthquake Charity in Nanjing

Grass-roots earthquake relief efforts are well underway in Nanjing and out in full-force this weekend. I donated money on Wednesday and was asked again at my company on Thursday. That night I also unknowingly attended a benefit concert at a local bar. But this morning I encountered a rather unwanted situation around the Shanxi Lu bus station as I waited for a ride to my Manadrin class.

I would seem that students from local universities are spear-heading the the street collection drive this weekend . I commend their enthusiasm and charity but I was slightly annoyed at being mobbed twice in five minutes and within a five meter radius. Granted, there was little reason for them to suspect I had donated previously, but I feel that such actions are voluntary on part of the individual donating and shouldn’t require solicitation, especially regarding such a well-known tragedy. Honestly, I was very uncomfortable having about a dozen students crowd me with flags, donation boxes, digital cameras and free newspapers. The newspapers were especially odd and I got the sense that some of them honestly thought I had no idea what had happened in Sichuan, eventhough this disaster has been holding spots on the front pages of the international media since Tuesday. Donating a second time was not a huge issue for me, it was the sense of being boxed and cornered and being turned into a street scene for passing pedestrians. I’m now the owner of several miniture Chinese flags, which I suppose I could jimmy to bag indicate that I am a donor. A sticker would have been fine.

Canada has offered the DART team to both China and Burma. Burma, not surprisingly, hasn’t said a word while China has declined.

Canada’s soldier-run disaster response team is all geared up with nowhere to go, still waiting for a call for help from Myanmar, where a cyclone hit in early May, as well as from China, where a massive earthquake struck five days ago.

Reclusive Myanmar has so far ignored Ottawa’s offer to send its Disaster Assistance Response Team and China has failed to include Canada on the list of countries allowed to send relief units, an omission that opposition parties say reflects cool relations between Beijing and the Harper government.

I felt that offering DART is a rather poor move on the part of Canada and financial donations would probably have been more appropriate. Nor to I believe that ‘cool-relations’ are the reason behind the decline. DART is operated by the Canadian military and deployment would require Canadian soldiers (read: Foreign Soldiers) to travel and work within the borders of China. One is more likely to see penguins sipping martinis in Vancouver than China accepting foreign military units (regardless of their purpose) on their soil.

China appears to be handling the crisis quite well on its own. 130,000 military/para-military personal have been ordered into the area rescue efforts seem to be compounded more by weather and terrain than by resources. DART is not a disaster-specific unit (unlike the Japanese earthquake teams that have arrived in Sichuan) and given the difficultites of operating in this area (huge population, terrain) it is probably that it would pose more of a burden to the operation than an asset. DART has been deployed four times, twice to EQ affected areas in Turkey (1999) and Pakistan (2005).

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