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03:30 Sep 30 2011

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English>>Tibet Online
A road less traveled (2)
09:43, August 05, 2010  

Zhang Yali with children in Chengduo County, Yushu. Zhang, a former volunteer for, lost her life in a traffic accident on her way back from Yushu in June.

More than a month ago, while most families in China were celebrating the country's traditional Dragon Boat Festival, Hong learned that Zhang Yali, a former volunteer for, lost her life following a traffic accident on her way back from Yushu on the snowy afternoon of June 11.

Zhang, a mother of a 20-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, started her connection with children living in Yushu in 2005 and later joined

During that time, Zhang was mainly responsible for visiting children who dropped out of school in poverty-stricken villages on the plateau and trying to find ways in which she and her colleagues could help.

Though she hadn't been a volunteer for since 2007, working for similar organizations and caring about children in the plateau remained a major part of her life.

"Most of the kids we knew could not afford school tuition or their families do not see any point in sending them to school," says Hong. "Zhang learned about the children's situation on the Internet and volunteered to help two boys finish high school."

Zhang and her husband Zhang Zhongxiang opened a small bookstore that sells schoolbooks to local primary and middle schools in 2001.

Zhang first went to Yushu in the winter of 2005 when the city's Chengduo county was devastated by a severe snow storm.

Zhiming Longzhu, principal of Chengduo High School, who used to buy books for his students from Zhang's bookstore, told her about the situation in a phone call and asked for help.

"What we know was that almost all the grasslands and houses were covered by heavy snow. Sheep and cows were starving to death, as there was no grass to graze on, and people were burning anything they could think of to keep warm because otherwise they were likely to die of frost," recalled Zhang's husband.

Zhang immediately posted the situation on the website of

After collecting four trucks of heavy clothes, beddings and fried noodles in only a week, Zhang was among the first to arrive at the disaster-hit area in Yushu.

Zhang's husband said that he was overwhelmed with concern and fear only after his wife returned from Yushu with Yang Shoude, a reporter from Xinhua News Agency and they showed him photographs they had taken on their way back.

"It was hard to imagine how they made it through," says Zhang's husband. "In some parts, there was no road at all. All you could see was white heavy snow. The Lancang River runs right under the cliff."

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