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After the quake, there is love, there is hope
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08:57, May 11, 2009

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The Deyang Earthquake Museum opens tomorrow to mark the first anniversary of the May 12 quake. Among its exhibits will be a painting, There is Love, There is Hope, by a student of Hongbai Primary School.

The painting's journey began three days after the Sichuan earthquake. There was chaos and suffering all around, with Deyang city resembling a battlefield.

Our photographer and I were looking for signs of life among the two school buildings' debris when we saw some paintings by kids, themed "Green Earth" and "World Full of Love". While we were retrieving the paintings, and idea struck me: "Why not auction the paintings and donate the proceeds as relief for the survivors?"

All the journalists and photographers covering the quake were overwhelmed by the devastation and human suffering. And all of them have contributed something to help the survivors. The kids' paintings gave me a chance to contribute my humble share.

It'll be a further humbling experience to see There is Love, There is Hope displayed in the museum. "It's not an ordinary painting but one that carries tremendous love," says Zhang Kailian, deputy head of Deyang education bureau. That's a tribute to the sprit of the students.

Chinese-American James Jao became the first person to buy one of the retrieved paintings, paying 100,000 yuan at a charity dinner in Beijing in October. The J.A.O. Design International president's gesture didn't end there. We agreed to set up a micro-fund in his name to improve the standard of English-language teaching in the school.

Our efforts prompted former British prime minister Tony Blair to sign three of the paintings, immensely increasing their auction value.

Last week, Peng Xiancheng, general manager of Decision Chemical, a leather chemical company in Sichuan, bought another of the paintings, and set up a micro-fund to provide medical help to the survivors.

A Chinese female artist and a British painter have emailed us, saying they are going to fly to the quake zone and participate in a sit and draw program to help the kids overcome the trauma.

Jao, who is currently in Beijing, is "very happy to see our efforts attract so much attention and support" from across the world. He wants to "open a new window for the teachers and kids in the mountains".

With help from the micro-fund and its local partner Decision Chemical, about 10 volunteer teachers from the mainland, Hong Kong, the US and the UK taught English at the school, and held classes in public speaking, presentation and debating skills, and even singing, late last month.

School headmaster Cheng Shilin welcomed the volunteers, saying they're helping build confidence among the traumatized kids.

Guo Weiqing, a professor in Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University and one of the volunteers, says all the teachers were well educated. They offered a "cultural recipe" to the about 500 students, almost half of who were pulled out of debris of the school. About 300 students were not as lucky, and perished in the quake.

It's to them that There is Love, There is Hope dedicated.

Source: China Daily

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