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The Beijing Bookworm quake relief efforts
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By Valerie Sartor
China.org.cn correspondent reporting in Beijing


The Beijing Bookworm, a premier English language lending library and bookshop, has engaged itself in the relief efforts after a devastating earthquake struck China's Sichuan Province.

"As soon as we heard the news we went into action," said Jenny Niven, a primary representative of The Beijing Bookworm in downtown San Li Tun. "Pete Goff, Alexandra Pearson's other partner, the man who opened our Suzhou and Chengdu branches, flew straight to Chengdu. It became clear that he and the Chengdu branch were going to be quite involved with the emergency relief operations."

The Beijing Bookworm immediately contacted the Chinese Red Cross as soon as the earthquake struck Sichuan on May 12. They asked what was needed the most the fastest. "They told us: blankets, quilts, food, money for water and medicines," Jenny said. The Beijing Bookworm staff sent out a plea for donations to their regular customers instead of their weekly newsletter. "But the response we got was amazing. Within two hours of the newsletter going we started getting overwhelmed. People began calling and dropping things by the same day," she added.

The Beijing Bookworm asked that people stop by and donate whatever they could from Tuesday until Saturday at 4 PM. Within a day they had shut off their back room, usually used as a bookstore and café area. "It just became our warehouse," Jenny said calmly. "I want to tell you that our staff was pleased to get involved. We had people in there all the time, sorting shoes, clothes, taking money and donations. Some folks would stop by, intending to just drop things off and they'd end up staying for a few hours as well, to help organize."

On Saturday night the DHL carrier service flew everything to Sichuan for free. "We donated about three and a half tons of clothing from Beijing, it was a total of ten tons from Suzhou, Beijing and Chengdu combined. About 300,000 yuan was collected so far; we're still collecting donations. Now we are working with an organization called Heart to Heart," Jenny said.

People of all races and nationalities: old and young, diplomats and working class, famous and ordinary, donated to The Beijing Bookworm. Even the original tent used by Ed Jocelyn and Andy McEwen to retrace the Long March, went into the relief pile, along with twenty new tents donated by the British American Tobacco Company. The China Yellow Pages, the Penguin Group, the Australian Embassy personnel, as well as the Defense Attaché of the Russian Federation, Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, African European and Chinese locals – a passel of multi-national folks contributed to the earthquake drive effort.

"Everybody here was proud to have been involved in this earthquake relief effort," Jenny said. "It was a good opportunity to watch a situation where both our Chinese and our foreign friends worked together tirelessly toward a common goal: to help those who are suffering in Sichuan."

She added that the Chengdu branch has not been doing any trade because it's been taken over by foreign journalists covering the earthquake. "Lots of travelers and foreigners and journalists pass through that venue normally," Jenny said, "so it seems natural to using it as a media information conduit now. Pete Goff has been utterly tireless; he's gone out himself to help deliver the clothing and relief supplies, volunteers are organizing and helping, and students, they're all collaborating with the Heart to Heart people. I think what we did was easier compared with what they're doing out in Chengdu."

(China.org.cn May 30, 2008)

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