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03:30 Sep 30 2011

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A road less traveled (3)
09:43, August 05, 2010  

Zhang was the second member of the organization to die on the road to the plateau.

The organization suffered from the loss of another volunteer in 2008, when Xiong Ning, a 29-year-old female volunteer lost her life on the way to Yushu, also in a traffic accident.

Hong insists on visiting the area herself whenever possible.

"I have become quite familiar with the climate and landscape there. Every time a volunteer heads there without me, I am deeply concerned about their safety," says Hong.

From Xining to Yushu, passing the Bayan Har Mountains, in which every mountain pass is higher than 5,000 meters, is a must for every visitor.

"We have an average of 100 volunteers working for us every year. For them, volunteering is a rewarding experience," says Hong. "While we are eager to help the children, we have made it a rule that safety comes first every time we visit the area. However, we still to have to put our fate at the mercy of nature."

But Hong says the organization continues to send volunteers to the area, rather than just sending money and goods.

"A huge language difficulty exists between us, as many people in do not speak the Tibetan language. We find it a big problem that many Tibetan parents do not fully realize the necessity of education," says Hong. "This is why we insist on visiting the area every year."

While the lack of financial support has been a common reason why some children do not receive necessary education at school age, Hong finds their biggest difficulty lies in the personal involvement with people on the plateau.

"Helping children in the area is no easy task," says Hong. "Besides collecting financial and material contributions, constant communication with the children in the area is an important part of our work."

At the memorial for Zhang Yali on July 17, which was attended by hundreds of volunteers and local students, a 15-year-old girl walked into the hall with walking sticks and kneeled down before Zhang's portrait.

The girl, named Zhuoma, was severely disabled with her legs crossed when Zhang first met her in Yushu in 2005. The girl dropped out of school and could not afford for medication.

Learning about the girl's plight, Zhang immediately took the girl to the Xining Armed Forces Hospital, where medical treatment is much better than in the girl's hometown. After successful surgery, the girl can now walk by herself and she is a student in No1 Middle School in Ledu county, Qinghai province.

Good news keeps coming, was recently chosen by China's Foundation of Poverty Alleviation to conduct the Package of Love Project in two counties in Yushu. This is a post-quake construction program that provides schoolbags, books and stationary to students. The Foundation has guaranteed 2 million yuan for the project.

"Ways to help poor people living on the plateau are improving," says Hong. "And we are confident that our future work will be more efficient with increasing help from the society."

Source: China Daily

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