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Campus Responds to China Earthquake

Campus Responds to China Earthquake

After the quake, staff, faculty and students across UCLA's campus reached out to help the tens of thousands of people impacted by the temblor. Chancellor Gene Block will visit China in late June in a long-planned trip that will gain new significance as he explores how UCLA can help in the aftermath of the quake.

This article was first published by UCLA Today Online.

By Alison Hewitt

WHEN UCLA's Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) heard about the devastation caused by the earthquake in China's Sichuan Province on May 12, they responded immediately.

Within 24 hours of the deadly 7.8-magnitude quake, CSSA's 2,000 members received an e-mail calling for donations. That and other fundraising efforts have already helped the group raise $28,000 for earthquake relief.

After the quake, staff, faculty and students across UCLA's campus reached out to help the tens of thousands of people impacted by the temblor. Chancellor Gene Block will visit China in late June in a long-planned trip that will gain new significance as he explores how UCLA can help in the aftermath of the quake. UCLA's International Institute and the Center for Chinese Studies are among the many branches of the university posting links on their Web sites to vetted charities that are safe to donate to in order to help.

On a larger scale, the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress at UCLA has coordinated with a publishing company in China to distribute 10,000 free copies of their Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide. Two Chinese translations — including one that was translated just since the earthquake — will provide guide to aid workers and volunteers on how to offer psychological assistance in the aftermath of a disaster, said Melissa Brymer, co-author and the director of the Terrorism and Disaster Program at the center.

"It's a whole field manual, over 100 pages long," Brymer explained. "It's about, how do you work with those who are currently in the stadiums, for example, who have lost their children, who have lost their homes, what basic support can you provide?"

The field manual has been widely used in the United States, Brymer said, and has been recommended by agencies including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. The manual walks aid workers through ways of engaging survivors without being intrusive, talking down people who are overwhelmed, linking victims with their former neighbors and other social networks, and suggesting coping skills.

"One thing that's common is survivors are going to experience reminders," Brymer said. "So we're helping them recognize what those reminders are. There are clocks that stopped in the earthquake that are reminders of when it happened — part of it is saying, 'Yes, you will experience reminders. And here are some that we know about, but you have the ability to cope with them.'"

Even as the center sends books to provide immediate aid, they are also looking at how they can provide long-term psychological assistance. Likewise, CSSA's fundraising efforts will help provide immediate earthquake relief, but they also have far-reaching plans, said CSSA President Minxue He. Two hundred people participated in a CSSA candlelight vigil, which raised $13,000, he said. The group raised another $3,000 when CSSA members spent a week on BruinWalk at lunch time, He added. Those funds are going to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles to rebuild in China and also to the Chinese Red Cross.

Their long-term goal is start a long-distance Big Brother/Big Sister program by donating cell phones to Chinese children in the earthquake areas. UCLA volunteers will be trained by mental health experts and then connect one-on-one with Chinese children in phone relationships that are expected to last for several years.

"The goal is to help them mentally recover," he said. "This is very shocking and sad for us, so a lot of Chinese students and professors want to get involved."

The Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars sent an e-mail in Mandarin and English to all their Chinese students and scholars and to campus Chinese organizations, said Director Bob Ericksen. The e-mail listed online resources such as guides to dealing with depression and stress and also provided referrals to Student Psychological Services, which has two Mandarin-speaking counselors.

"We're also trying to make those resources available to our scholars and other (non-students) who would not normally be eligible," Ericksen said. "We want to make sure we don't turn anyone away."