Monday, March 2, 2009

The power of compassion

Photo by Nasitra entitled Glimmer of Hope, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.

Saturday February 7th 2009 will long be remembered as the day over 200 people lost their lives in Australia’s worst natural disaster to date. On this day, now known as Black Saturday, fires swept through the Victorian bush, destroying over two thousand homes and completely decimating the towns of Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewen and Flowerdale. With over 500 people injured and 7500 people left homeless as a result of the blaze, not to mention the huge economic losses caused by the disaster, a remarkable effort will be needed to restore balance to the lives of those Victorians affected by the fire.

Alongside a swift response from the State Government of Victoria and the Federal Government of Australia, which passed a $10 million emergency package, individual Australians were quick to contribute to the call for donations with a Red Cross appeal raising over $150 million. These contributions have been bolstered by donations from major corporations, companies, banks, and cultural and sporting organizations such as the AFL.

One group that has also rushed to the assistance of the victims of the bushfire has been Australia’s Overseas Chinese community. This community, made up of international students, permanent residents, citizens of Chinese descent and expatriates has galvanised in an effort to raise much-needed funds in this time of need. Whilst their campaign has not received much media attention, I feel that it is extremely important to commend this community for their fund raising efforts.

Personally, I found out about this campaign only last week. Whilst walking to work at Monash I came across a poster proclaiming
捐出一澳元, 献出你爱心。

The sentence can be translated as ‘donate one Australian dollar, show your compassion.’ It went on to detail a campaign organised by the Australian Overseas Chinese community with the support of the Education Group of the Consulate General of the PRC in Melbourne. I was quite awestruck by the community spirit displayed by the Chinese community in Australia in instigating this campaign. I was even more moved when I met a student from Beijing who was standing in the hot sun at Monash Caulfield carrying a hand made donation box emblazoned with the Red Cross insignia and collecting money for the bushfire victims. I began talking with her and discovered that she had only been in Australia for a matter of weeks but felt the need to volunteer and do what she could to help those affected by the disaster.

To read more about the fundraising campaign or to find out how you can donate, you can follow this link to the Monash Chinese Students Association blog. I will provide a full translation of their blog entry in the above post.

In closing, Soy Sauce would like to pay tribute to the Overseas Chinese Community of Australia, especially those international students involved, and also to the Consulate General of the PRC for their assistance in helping Victoria rebuild in the wake of this tragedy.

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