Water Blog

September 15, 2008
Update from China, September 15th

Yesterday, September 15th, I went to the earthquake area. Tangjun, one of the directors of Yak Team (a group of Chinese volunteers), drove me in his jeep. We brought food with us for volunteers who are living out there. As we entered the area it is like a war zone with rubble and tents everywhere.

We went to Jiulong Village in Mianzhu County. Jiulong once consisted of 9 villages and now is only 4 villages with about 27,000 people living there. Each person has been given 800 per person to rebuild and so most cannot rebuild especially older people who do not have a family. All the wells in the area the government declared unfit to drink but they have no other supply of water. The Red Cross has pulled out. There are 8 volunteers left of the thirty original people who have helped rebuild a nursery school and teach. They assisted the old to be comfortable and many of the hurt, over 600 in number, who were returned to the villages, some still in bad shape. The volunteers are from around China. They listen to the people and then try to find a way to do all they can to help or to get what is needed. In many ways they serve as a connection to the outside.

We spoke with many villagers, particularly about the pressing need for clean water. Although they boil the water, people are getting sick and blisters are appearing in their mouths. They were most concerned about he 100 children in the nursery school. Then we drove up a valley for an hour on a dirt road. The valley is Quing Quan Cun, very beautiful with wild flowers in bloom, clear streams and hardly a building standing and landslides everywhere. We found no one living up there; everyone is living down in Jiulong. The government has told them it is not safe to live in the valley. Everyone thinks it will be three years before they can return. We were able to talk with some people who come daily to farm, as that is their only living.

There are still missing people buried in rubble. They said that no one is living further up so we turned back after talking with the people. Starving dogs that can hardly walk were wandering around and we found occasional dahlias, rose bushes and other cultivated flowers that were carefully planted by farmers and survived the earthquakes and landslides. They were reminders of the lives lived there. Crushed rubble is being used to rebuild the road; a mud-smeared head of a manikin was perched on a wall as a startling reminder of what had happened and in great contrast with the surrounding beauty.

Next we went to a village, more accessible where people are still living. Because a group of women were washing clothes at a place established in the main stream through the middle of the village, we were able to sit and talk easily. They started to tell us how their water system had been destroyed and that before the earthquake every house had running water. One woman then went to get the village head and we discussed what they need and how to do it. Supplies for rebuilding the two concrete tanks, one, which filters water and the other, distributes, is about 10,000 Yuan or 1,500 US we were told. We got the dimensions of the tanks and will inquire in Chengdu about the costs of materials. The men in the village will supply the labor. They are 30 families and if we do this they will share with other villagers whose water systems have also been destroyed. We gave sweaters, which someone gave to me to give away to the very old in this village. Keepers have a total of $4,500 to give to projects in these areas.

Tangjun and I are researching a way to filter the water from one well, the one that serves the nursery school and about 300 people. That would be a start. We think rebuilding the water supply for the 30 families in the village is also a good project because that is a permanent solution for the people of the village. However, there are 27,000 people living on the flat lands of Jiulong and we cannot help everyone but one filtered well might lead to others getting involved. It will be at least three years before they have cleaner water in their wells or the government builds a way to clean the water. If you know of anyone who can give for these projects, Keepers of the Waters and the Yak Team will supervise the efforts and make sure the money goes towards clean water and, if possible, permanent solutions to water supplies.

With appreciation for your time and thanks in advance, Betsy Damon, Keepers of the Waters and Tangjun, Yak Team


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