Just a short distance from the epicenter of the 5.12 earthquake, the entire Yingxiu town was practically leveled. Hundreds of lives were lost. Within days of the earthquake, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) dispatched social work teams led by Professors Ting Wai-fong and Ku Hok-bun to Yingxiu. Joined by their partners from Sichuan University in Chengdu and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the teams spent countless hours assessing the immediate and short-term needs while providing recovery assistance to the victims in Yingxiu.
Farther up north in the mountainous Qingping, villagers sustained heavy losses of property and means of livelihood as a result of the quake and landslides. However, due to its remote location, Qingping was completely cut off from the outside world and in dire need of assistance. Undaunted, Professor Ting led a team of young social workers trekking for hours across treacherous terrains blocked by landslides and collapsed roads to reach the villagers. They immediately set up a temporary service center, which has since become a permanent ﬁxture in Qingping.
Although the earthquake-stricken regions suffered huge human and property losses, the PolyU team and their mainland partners immediately recognized that post-disaster recovery and rebuilding could not, and should not, rely on external assistance alone. They helped villagers take stock of local resources to rebuild their lives by assisting with the re-establishment of various means of livelihood in the communities, such as by helping local people with the design, production and commercialization of traditional handicraft items, providing training on ecotourism management, and connecting local bed-and-breakfast establishments with city residents for weekend trips.
Meanwhile, the PolyU social service center in Qingping became the “village hall” where displaced villagers, young and old, found solace and support. Activities and group gatherings reconnected the villagers and fostered a strong sense of community. The project team paid particular attention to elderly villagers and those with limited mobility and earning ability, while also offering counseling services and cultural activities. Local volunteers were organized to document the history of the communities.
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