:: Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake. Almost 90,000 people died in the disaster – over 5,000 of them children, trapped under the rubble of their own school classrooms, but spare a moment to think about 126 that did survive. Rescued from collapsed schools and designated as some of those most severely affected, they were brought to Beijing and enrolled in a specially tailored program of rehabilitation. The children, mainly Qiang and many of them orphans, gave a name to their new family at the Shuren-Ribet School in Beijing, “ShuMeng-ErMa” – hope in Sichuan for Qiang sons and daughters.
With no written system, Qiang culture and history have always been passed on by storytellers, musicians and religious leaders, but almost all of these ‘cultural carriers’ perished in the earthquake, leaving the preservation of Qiang culture at risk. The ShuMeng program works not only to offer basic education, food and shelter to these children, but to provide Qiang cultural classes, counseling and a sense of structure to their lives. Children who had nothing now have hope and a chance to make something of their future, but without funding, this program will have to close. The children will be separated from each other and sent back to schools in disaster-stricken areas. Such an upheaval would not only remove each child from his or her new surrogate family at the school, but it is unlikely any would receive education in Qiang culture or traditions at newly constructed schools in Sichuan – something that puts the future of this minority’s traditions in danger.
These children have been given hope, but risk having it taken away again – you can help. // AjS