On the morning of 20 April 2013, an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 hit the city of Ya’an in Sichuan Province. From that moment on, the lives of Li Wanliang and his family, whose home was at the Jihong village of Tiantaishan town in the city of Qionglai, only five kilometres away from the epicentre, were completely changed.
The Li family had resided in the same house for generations. The old beams and rafters were not able to withstand the earthquake and were severely damaged. The whole family of seven, including Li's 80-year-old ailing parents and his three-year-old granddaughter, became homeless overnight. All seven of them had to huddle together in a shabby tent. According to official figures released, about 4,000 households in Tiantaishan town were affected by the earthquake, of which the homes of 1,350 were severely damaged and another 61 were completely destroyed.
Joining the Community in Rebuilding Lives
As the Sichuan people began rebuilding their lives, various organisations including government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and corporations came forward to lend a helping hand.
In support of the rebuilding efforts, CapitaLand donated S$100,000 through its philanthropic arm CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), and partnered international NGO, Habitat for Humanity (China) (HFHC) to rebuild homes for affected children and their families. A donation drive was also organised among staff and business partners in China to support the rebuilding. Through this effort, the CapitaLand family hopes to contribute to the rebuilding of safe homes that can withstand earthquakes of up to a magnitude of 8.0 for beneficiaries in the affected areas.
Ploughing in to Help Rebuild Homes
On top of the donation, a CapitaLand Group-wide volunteer expedition to Jihong village was organised. More than 80 volunteers including staff and community representatives from within China and overseas, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, came together to help rebuild homes in the village under the professional guidance of HFHC. Under the “Building for Tomorrow” corporate social responsibility programme of CapitaLand, we joined hands to spread warmth and love to the community.
Mr Tan Seng Chai, Group Chief Corporate Officer, CapitaLand Limited and Executive Director, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, also volunteered at the expedition. Mr Tan said: “As a real estate developer, CapitaLand believes in “Building People”. In support of the post-earthquake rebuilding project, we can apply our real estate expertise and skills to build safe and comfortable homes for the affected children. This community project is of great significance to us and we believe it is our duty to contribute back to the communities in which we operate in.”
Cleaning up rubble, digging and laying foundations, carrying construction materials, mixing concrete, backfilling – heavy physical labour that most of the volunteers were engaged in for the first time. However, no one complained. Staff volunteer, Ainsley Budge from The Ascott Limited, based in Australia, said: “We wanted to do as much as possible within a limited time. Every volunteer was spurred on to continue working non-stop as we saw the villagers rarely rested. Their strong spirit really moved us.”
Helping to Rebuild Lives with Love
Volunteers also visited the affected families to understand the extent of damage and bring comfort to the families. Witnessing the severe damage, the volunteers deeply felt the significance of their rebuilding efforts. Rebecca Koh Rui Shan, a Singaporean community volunteer from Shanghai, took a photo with a grandmother at the home she visited. The 87-year-old grandmother said it was the first photograph she had taken in her life. Rebecca was deeply moved, “I will certainly send her this special picture because it conveys my best wishes to her for a better life in the future.”
After a whole day of work, volunteers would gather together to share what they have accomplished during the day, regardless of their tiredness. Among their exchanges: “Today we carried a total of about 1,500 kilogrammes of grains, didn't we?”; “Did you see the substation we built yesterday, it is now completed with a roof!”; and “The villagers used the wood we carried to build their homes!”
Three days of expedition passed very quickly. Though the amount of rebuilding that the volunteers could complete in three days was limited, the earnestness, hard work, care and warmth were felt by the villagers even as the winter approached.
With the joint efforts of the community, the villagers will be able to move into beautiful new homes in the very near future.