Helping out, each in his own way

08:11, April 22, 2010      

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Volunteer repairs shoes and watches, and even throws in a few massages

YUSHU, Qinghai - Among rows of quake relief tents, Shi Xuejun takes out a screwdriver, hammer, needles and a piece of cardboard, preparing to help out in his own way.

He places the cardboard sign beside him at the Gyegu Stadium in Yushu of Qinghai province.

It reads: "Free service and repairs for worn shoes, broken watches, glasses and zippers, and free massages for rescuers and quake victims."

"My handicraft is not that good, but this is all I can do for the soldiers and the quake victims," said 48-year-old Shi, a masseuse and part-time repairman from Weihai, East China's Shandong province.

When he heard about the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Qinghai last Wednesday, Shi decided to volunteer as soon as possible.

With his tool box prepared, Shi left home on Wednesday without telling his 20-year-old daughter or his wife. He took a long-distance bus from Weihai to Qingdao, then another from Qingdao to Zhengzhou, from Zhengzhou to Xi'an, Xi'an to Xining - and finally reaching Yushu on Sunday.

He said taking buses is affordable but time-consuming. His four-day trip cost him more than 1,000 yuan ($146), or about half of his monthly income as a masseuse in Weihai.

Arriving at Yushu, altitude sickness posed a challenge for Shi and symptoms like dizziness, difficult breathing and headache have affected him.

Fortunately, he got some medicine from Wang Weidong, another volunteer serving as a doctor at Xining No 2 Hospital.

Like Wang, many volunteers and soldiers left for the quake-hit area in a hurry without carrying extra shoes or watches.

"We cannot buy shoes here, so Shi's booth does us a great favor and the broken shoes can be worn again," said Wang Xin, another volunteer who came for a repair.

In less than 10 minutes, at least five more people had lined up.

Many residents in Yushu have heard about the free repairman and local women often send him food and water for thanks.

This is not the first time Shi has served as a volunteer in quake-hit areas. He was in Wenchuan, Sichuan province, for two months after the 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit the region in May 2008.

Shi said he gave free massages and acupuncture after the quake to help ease the shock and grief.

Born into a rural household in Rizhao of Shandong province, Shi learned to repair watches, pens and glasses in 1980, and after five years he learned to do massages, becoming a professional masseuse.

His two brothers are both in the military, so soldiers have a special place in his heart, equal to family members.

Every year he works as a masseuse for half a year, then provides free services like repairing pens, watches and glasses for the military and military schools.

He has been to more than 50 military schools across the country, which eats up most of his earnings.

"Soldiers are protecting the country at the expense of their lives and I should do something in my capacity for them and for people in need," Shi said.

Hundreds of volunteers are flooding into Yushu like Shi and donations are coming from across the country. State broadcaster CCTV's charity show on Tuesday evening raised nearly 2.2 billion yuan.

By 4 pm on Tuesday, about 34,000 tents, 77,000 quilts, 55,000 coats, and more than 1,000 tons of drinking water and instant noodles had been sent to the quake zone.

Source:China Daily


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