Volunteer: Spreading goddwill overseas

Updated: 2012-12-05 09:36

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

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Work as a volunteer has taken Lu Zhonghong, 45, to almost every major disaster site in China during recent years. After the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, he stayed in the devastated area for two months helping the locals rebuild their houses.

However, in November, he ventured outside China for the first time as a volunteer. Lu traveled to Myanmar as part of a rescue team funded by the One Foundation charity after the country was hit by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake.

Volunteer: Spreading goddwill overseas

A Chinese volunteer gives candy to children in earthquake-stricken Myanmar in November. [Photo/Provided to China Daily]

"People are the same all over," said Lu. "Even with different languages, cultures and history, we share the same feelings. People all need help when disaster strikes and we are all willing to help each other."

While the quake didn't result in large loss of life, the loss of property and amenities was huge. Bamboo houses, temples and schools were all destroyed and people were living in open fields because there weren't enough shelters to house them all. Lu said the warm welcome he and his teammates received from the locals was moving: "Everyone smiled at us or greeted us with little kung fu movements they had seen on the television," he said. "I am always surprised how strong and optimistic people are, despite difficult conditions."

The local ethnic Chinese community was also happy to see the rescue workers, said Lu, because the support shown by China made them more confident in their adopted homeland.

"They guided us around and helped us with food, transportation and translation," he said. "We couldn't have got into the disaster zone without their help."

Lu also praised the support the team received from the Chinese consulate, which gave them permission to work in the affected area.

"An official from the consulate told us to act responsibly because we were representing China, no matter whether we were official or not," he said

He said overseas volunteers have a great opportunity to introduce China to the world. "The image of a nation is not only about the GDP numbers," he said. "People get to know about China by talking to and working with Chinese people. What we did overseas left the local people with a good impression of our country."

Lu doesn't have a stable job but spends most of his time and energy on his unpaid role as director of the Luye Rescue Team, a non-government volunteer organization in Beijing.

Since the team was founded in 2007, it has launched more than 200 rescue operations in Beijing and has helped more than 1,000 people in emergency situations, including flooding, landslides and mountaineering accidents.

He Na contributed to this story.