China Earthquake Relief by Lynda Dyer
I arrived in Shanghai China on May 12, 2008, only a few hours after the Earthquake of 2.28 pm in Sichuan. People had felt the shockwaves in Shanghai and as far north as Beijing. It was not only the talk of the town but the talk of China. The TV stations had dramatic pictures of the areas they could get to and the devastation was immense. The loss of life was catastrophic as it was whole villages and schools that were consumed by this monster in the middle of the day.
I was in Shanghai, China to train coaches in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Certified Practitioner Certificate. I was staying with the organiser of the trainings, Miss Hong Pan from Hong Pan Consulting. Hong and I met in Australia doing our training at a Masters level and we decided then that this information would be great for China. This was my second trip as a trainer.
The TV sets were all about the earthquake after the trainings and one day I saw in English at the bottom of the TV that they were looking for coaches to go into the earthquake area and assist these people through their recovery from such a mental trauma of so much loss. I had a sudden thought at that point that we could make a difference because we were trained as coaches and could instantly put our training into effect.
I put the opportunity to the class the next morning and asked Hong to listen to the radio in the taxi and tell me if they mention the need for coaches again. They did mention it and my ideas became quicker and quicker. I wanted to know;
how many people in the group were interested to do this.
what organisations could we go through to make this happen.
Who would be willing to translate a book that I have written called “Good Grief…What a wonderful life I had” from English to Chinese. Hong Pan immediately put her hand up for that.
I knew we could make this work and our training and learnings became more purposeful every day. We were not only teaching and learning for ourselves, as we now had a mission to accomplish. Every day we were interested in the earthquake and what was happening. One of the students said to me “How could you help as you do not speak Chinese?” I was actually shocked by this remark as it never occurred to me that there would be any obstacles, only possibilities. I replied “Wow!, isn’t it interesting how sometimes we are so quick to find the reasons, the circumstances if you like, as to why something would not work?” I know that body language is 55% to 75% of us and at no time did I think I could not do this.
Before I left Australia I had begun to write a book on “The Law of Expectation” as I was fascinated in why many people set goals and do not achieve them. I had just completed the first stage of the book with Harrison Klien in the USA. With that in the back of my mind I then became fascinated in the rescues and survivors from the Earthquake. Two rescues were great examples of Expectation. One man said he saw a bottle in the dirt around him and he knew that in order for him to survive this he would have to have water. He reached over very gently from the underground position he was stuck in and grabbed a bottle. He urinated into the bottle and drank it and was rescued around day 7.
A second man, on day 8, who was one of the only few person rescued in that one day, said when he was rescued that “I absolutely expected that the communist party would rescue me, so I stayed calm and waited for that to happen” Both these men were brilliant examples of “Expectation”. So I Expected to continue with my project to help in the Earthquake zone because I knew I could as did Hong who worked tirelessly to also bring things together.
On Monday 19th May, exactly one week later, the Chinese Government asked everyone to stop at 2.28 pm precisely and have three minutes of silence for the earthquake victims. I was in a taxi coming back from lunch to the training and the three of us in the taxi were emotional. I closed my eyes and thought about what it would be like to be buried alive underground and to not know of your survival. I could visualise moving the dirt slowly away from my face to give me more air to breathe. That realisation that over 100,000 people had gone through struck a chord with all of us. Over 3 million people were now homeless and the death toll was rising dramatically every day. The taxi driver stopped at a light and he did not move. The traffic police bowed their heads and with their hats in their hands they cried too. People just stopped where they were in the street and became absorbed in their own thoughts around this catastrophic event. I feel this emotion in me as I write this part of the story. It was a very moving time.
It actually gave us more conviction to stick to our plan as a whole nation was mourning here. I left Shanghai the following evening to come back to Australia. We worked day and night contacting people, writing proposals, translating the Good Grief Book, matching up the pictures, finding sponsorship to pay for the printing of the book and doing more proposals to present to organisations that would sponsor our efforts.
We attracted graphic designers that helped put the book together with the help of an Australian living in Shanghai, Kristian Page who worked with the graphic designer and spent days and nights making this book happen. After knock-backs from organisations who turned down the opportunity to sponsor us, we offered opportunities to the general populations to be a part of this little book and big effort to get this book and some trained grief counsellors into the Earthquake zone. Offers of donations came in and on the day the booklets arrived back from the printer and we still did not have the amount of money we needed to pay him. We had an absolute belief that this would happen though and in 24 hours we had donations from a Canadian, Australians, Chinese and a German couple. We ran a business breakfast and put all that money in and we asked people at an athletic gathering (Shanghai Tri Club birthday party) would they like to donate and they did. It was humbling to see that people from all over the world were now a part of this project. We were able to pay the printer 24hours later when he called.
Just applying for another visa from the Chinese Embassy here was not totally easy as they had just put into place their new restrictions of single entry every 90 days and I had just come back. I went to the Embassy and found out what I required and immediately put action into place to make it happen. We had to have an itinerary, accommodation in the areas we were going to, air tickets purchased and letters from any company that we would be working with. I went back to the embassy and the man recognised me and smiled. He knew why I wanted to go back, checked my paperwork and I was to go back tomorrow and collect my visa.
I flew back into China on Monday 16th June. Things moved very quickly. Word had got out about the project and now Shanghai Radio was keen to interview us in English as they have over 100,000 keen listeners who speak English and Chinese. We were so excited because the more people who got to know about the project, the more monies we could collect and the more books we could print and disseminate…that was our thinking at the time. The radio station interviewers were keen to learn about how we could help and more keen to learn how a “Westerner” could help an “Easterner” with their grieving process. At the end of the day we are made up of the same cell structure and have extremely similar basic wants and needs so it never entered my head that this would be difficult. There were too many similarities in my mind to think that this could not work. With a psychology background the interviewer wanted to continue discussions after the radio interview as he found our thinking very interesting.
We had also received offers from a company near the earthquake zone who wanted us to do a Grief and Stress Management Program for the staff as they were affected by the loss of relatives in the area and the sheer stress of their people dying in such huge numbers.
Three of us (Hong from Shanghai, Beate from Germany and myself from Australia) all flew out of Shanghai on Wednesday 18th June to Chengdu laden with the “Good Grief” books. This was 3 hours west of Shanghai. We arrived at our hotel and immediately got to action together. We walked around the town and could feel a sense of people wanting to move on even though the 10,000 aftershocks were a real occurrence for them on a daily basis. We invited voluntary organisation leaders to come and meet with us that night to see how we could work together as we still did not have any confirmed plans to go right into the epicentre of this disaster.
One leader (June Wang) was so happy about what we intended to do and the book we wanted to give out that she went away from our meeting very excited, not promising anything, but offering us hope. She told us of the many security checks we would have to go through but nothing was to dampen our enthusiasm and we expected her call the next morning.
She had organised with another voluntary worker in the “tent city” area to take us to the school where only 100 children are alive today after 17,000 people were buried in that town. The car trip alone was a real eye opener. Tents were along the sides of the roads as people were too afraid to go back inside their houses while the aftershocks were happening daily. It was like the people were living on the footpaths. You had an immediate sense of the effect this was still having on the residents on the outskirts of the area.
The driver told us many stories about life after the earthquake. He told us of many nights they did not sleep until they were so tired they had to. He slept with fear of not waking up for many nights because it was the collapse of the buildings that killed most of the people. He told us of the buildings shaking and moving. He told us of the 10,000 after shocks, none of which have been below 4 on the richter scale. He told us of the arm on a statue was moving so much one day he thought the statue was waving at him until he realised what was happening. He told us that it’s not what these people have been through themselves but also what they have witnessed. Bodies were everywhere as were parts of bodies as were limbless bodies. They have been through more than anyone could ever imagine in their lifetime.
We arrived at the Earthquake area only to find the children they wanted us to visit were at lunch so we would have to find a place to eat and come to the school after lunch.
We found a hotel with lots of evidence of the earthquake but the owner had built a temporary kitchen out the back and had set tables up for guests out the back of the damaged hotel. It was business as usual and we had some of the nicest food sitting next to army and police and volunteers on a well earned break. The cracks in the building and rubble on the ground were vivid reminders of May 12. I admired the tenacity of the people and we invited the driver of our car to continue with his stories over lunch.
It was time to go and distribute the books and we were driven to the opening of the “Tent City” where a volunteer dressed in army uniform came to see what we had and check us out. He was so impressed with our mission he hopped in the car and assisted the driver to show him directions of where to take us. We drove through so much devastation. Not many buildings standing…just the front gate posts. We drove on roads that were only half there as the other half had diminished. We drove past trucks that carried hundreds of panels for the displaced housing that was being built around the clock by volunteers. We drove past acres of tents. We drove past a husband and wife carrying a piece of wood over their shoulders that held a basket of rubble that they were clearing from their house. It was so heavy they could hardly walk but that is all they had to work with.
We drove through some of the most beautiful farm land I have ever seen overlooked by mountains that had the scars of falling debris from the earthquake. We drove through the village where a whole kindergarten was simply rubble and where all the children were crushed to death by falling building pieces. We past house after house where only bits were standing. We past schools where children were buried alive. It was very quiet in the car where everyone had their own thoughts of how this was for them.
We arrived at the roadside near the make-shift school at Shi Quan Village, Nine Dragon Zhen (Town), Mian Zhu City, Si Chuan Province and walked through a mud track, up a slope to a flat muddy area that was covered in straw. A Chinese lady from the village came out to hug me and chatted away in Chinese like I was her long lost friend.
Army tents surrounded this muddy “play/assembly” area and tables and chairs were in a line under a canopy as one of the make-shift class rooms. We were met by volunteers, teachers, police and children. There was a voluntary band that had come over from Hong Kong to entertain the children and they were about to start a big birthday. They had decided that this day June 19 would be the beginning of the rest of their lives and it was time to celebrate new beginnings. Our book would be the birthday present. I was shocked to see only 100 children from 4 years to 14 years old. That was all there were left in this village. It was a stark reminder of how many people they lost.
The children were put into rows with the big kids in the back of the pack and then the little children came out holding hands. Only half a dozen kids that looked numb. Who knows what was going on in their little minds? They have had so much to absorb in their short lifetime. Teachers and volunteers were spread around the group with the head teacher making them happy with encouraging words while he came to the front of the group. The band began to play and I knew all the songs in English so I sang with a loud voice. It was another reminder of the similarities around the world. On that day music tied us all together. Then the band added actions to their songs and one policeman at the back was so good he was asked to come to the front and join the band. Two other police joined in and they had the children laughing loudly for what was probably the first time in a long time. The next song had all the children doing actions and the air was light with this happy moment like everyone had forgotten what had happened such a short time ago. Then the band sang a song about giving and receiving love and as they did the children were asked to come up and shake the hands of the volunteers who rescued them. One little 4 year old girl left the group and came over and hugged us. I will never forget that moment. We all speak the same language it’s just the words that are different. The language of love is universal. The tears began from everyone. Some of the teachers wept openly and I remember a little girl going up to one teacher and wiping her eyes for her and giving her courage. Male teachers wept openly as did the police, volunteers and the village people who had gathered around the outskirts of the school to see what all the noise was about. Volunteers were going around asking the adults to be strong for the children. I found this very moving, and shed tears as I remember this part of our day.
All of a sudden party hats came out, and large cakes were brought out in decorative boxes. The Police had brought the cakes with them accompanied by treats for the children. I had a party hat put on my head and a cake put into my hands. The children took a while to move their emotions from the sadness and loss to the joy of moving on. I felt the loss of these children and their teachers. We then became actively involved in cutting cake, distributing the cake and singing Happy Birthday. The head teacher, also a volunteer, continually came up to us saying “Very thank you” in his limited English. He is a very special man and these children are blessed to have him with them. I watched him cradle a crying boys head to give him love, while always keeping his eyes on the whole school. He would smile at the children then turn his head to openly let out his own emotion.
He then did something very unexpected. He started to paint my face with the cream off the leftover cake. He painted other faces. He then came back, and put a whole handful of cake in my face to get the children to laugh. He told the children to go paint the faces of the police as this may be the only times in their lives that this would be possible. What could only be described as mayhem and chaos and laughter with cake throwing and cake painting added in then took place for about 5 minutes. I watched children take handfuls of cake and they ate like food was so scarce and threw away the cream. The police were laughing and we all began cleaning cake from each others neck, ears, faces and wherever else we could find it. This activity was the trick to change the mood. The children were then asked to go back in their lines and we gave out our book as the birthday present. Everyone wanted a book including the people from the village. The teachers assured them that they would go through the book in their classroom.
All of a sudden the children were back in their class rooms and we were all leaving. Our driver and volunteer helped us down the slope as did my Chinese lady friend who insisted on carrying my handbag. She spoke to me all the way back to the car in Chinese and showed me houses now looking like rubble. It was like I could understand everything as she pointed to the house with her hand gestures, explaining that that was all she had left. She then wanted her picture taken with me as did one of the volunteer teachers. We said our good byes and we were on our way. We then took this amazing volunteer back to his headquarters at “Tent City”. His boss was upset with him for being with us so long. He said he enjoyed it all and believed in what we were doing and said he had nothing to lose. He was not afraid to face his boss. He told us he had given all his money to the earthquake victims so they could buy food. We offered him money to do the same and he refused this because he felt that it could be taken the wrong way by some people. He was one of those very special people. He took us right into the tent city and over to a tent that had other donated goods in it. This was a showground that had rows and rows of tents for the earthquake victims. It was heavily guarded by the army and the volunteers. We watched a little girl copying the actions of the army guard then they both fell into laughter. We saw people playing games and table tennis like it was time to move on.
He asked the girls to give our books out to those who need it the most. The girls behind the desk read it immediately which pleased us very much.
It was a huge day with mixed feelings of getting our book to the people who needed it most and the emotion of what they had been through. My head ached with pain for the loss these people had been through and from holding back the emotion felt by the whole experience.
Back at the hotel I rested my head and thought about the whole day while my two colleagues/coaches Hong and Beate decided to act on a contact they had received from another of our French NLP students. There was an owner in a pub in the town that had lots of contacts and could assist us to get more books out. Off they went on another mission to disseminate as many books as possible.
The next day we were to train the Alcatel staff so while I stayed in the motel room designing an 8 step Grief and Stress Management Plan for the training, my two colleagues/coaches (Hong and Beate) went to a “Bookworm” place that Beate had read about in a local magazine. They took copies of the book and asked if the owner could help them disseminate the book. This man had already sold lots of books and had raised over 300,000 RMB and given it all to the earthquake appeal. He was not there at this time but he contacted us later and is happy to help us set up “releasing grief seminars” and to also give out the booklet or sell the booklet and donate the monies. The girls arrived back at 12.25 pm when the car was arriving to take us to the Alcatel training. They changed in the ladies toilets and we were on our way to the next venture. We were excited that so many avenues were opening up for our booklet to get to the right people.
At the Alcatel training we gave them each a workbook I had designed and we went through the program with me teaching slowly in English and with drawings on a flip chart while Hong translated the information into Chinese on the spot. Some of the staff had a knowledge of English so they could hear it in both languages. The training had a mixture of theory and practical. We had them write out their feelings and express them openly on paper. We expressed how Grief does not equal Love. Only LOVE can equal LOVE. We asked them to write out what they loved about the people/person they lost.
We also gave them an “A” on a card at the end of the training with a poem about how special they were. We asked them to imagine that they were an standard “A” worker and person from now on and all they have to do is work out the action plan to keep it. They then set positive “anchors” on their knuckles so they had something positive to hold onto when the sadness in the news was on every night. We then set future goals together and wrote them out so they had an action plan to work with. We comforted those with emotion and answered some amazing questions. The best part was when they answered their own questions. It was like a light bulb continually being given more energy.
We took photos of the group with their “A” and told them we were looking forward to the stories and accomplishments they went through to keep the “A”.
We were driven to the airport and we flew back to Shanghai. We were pleased to find that our little “Good Grief” booklets were now in a school, a village, a book shop, a pub and with volunteers at tent city ready for dissemination. Only having one contact when we left Shanghai we had now established at least 5. It was an amazing 48 hours.
On the next day we got together for lunch and invited anyone who wanted to join us as they were all so interested in our adventure. A lady from Beijing media was present and the opportunities from this meeting alone are endless. We continue to work on the contacts we met and discover new opportunities every day. We are still getting offers for donations and have committed to printing another 2000 books as soon as the donations match the price to get them printed.
This story is about acting on your ideas. You are never given an idea you are not capable of achieving. Decide, Act, Believe and EXPECT and it will come together for everyone to benefit from.
If you would like to support our efforts to go back to this area and coach these people and to send more “Good Grief” booklets in to where they are required please don’t hesitate to contact Hong Pan in Shanghai on firstname.lastname@example.org Or myself Lynda Dyer on email@example.com
Lynda Dyer and Hong Pan
Sadness of grief takes a whole new meaning when we reflect back on the life of a person or animal we love. Good Grief was written with the purpose to allow others to grieve and celebrate the life of those people and animals we lose along our path through life. Lynda Dyer had six deaths in one year and another the following year. She decided the best way to deal with her grief was to look at the great contribution these people had on her life rather than looking at the gap that they left.
Focusing on the loss for an extended period almost certainly leads to a state of depression. Good Grief is an understanding of loss and a celebration of life. It teaches people of all ages how to embrace the grief and pain and move through it successfully and carry on with life.
We believe Good Grief, now translated into the Chinese language, will give thousands of suffering Chinese people the opportunity to understand and move through their pain and grief.
There is an opportunity to have a credit page inside the booklet for the sponsors of the project.