Hours after the massive earthquake struck China, John Cheng and his colleagues at the Southwest China Assn. sprang into action.
Cheng, a manufacturer of all-terrain vehicles, scooters and dirt bikes, helped organize a news conference for the Chinese-language media Monday afternoon at a Monterey Park restaurant.
The group announced a quake relief fundraising drive. So far, it has raised $20,000 -- including $1,000 that the Diamond Bar resident donated.
It was one of several fundraising campaigns underway by Chinese American organizations hoping to aid the victims of the disaster that has killed at least 12,000 people in Sichuan province.
Social associations have been a hallmark of the Chinese American community since immigrants first arrived more than two centuries ago.
They have multiplied in recent years because of an influx of mainland Chinese.
Now, many of those associations are mobilizing for quake relief.
Mei Mei Zhou, president of the Southwest China Assn., said her group was considering setting up donation kiosks at popular shopping centers in the San Gabriel Valley.
Sue Zhang, president of the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations, was in Beijing when the deadly Tangshan temblor struck in 1976. She remembers that China at the time was still in economic and political turmoil.
Though China is more stable today, Zhang said, China needs the help of the international community.
She spent the last two days furiously calling friends and holding meetings in her West Covina home to help organize a benefit concert at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
Zhang, who organized the Beijing Olympic float in the Rose Parade earlier this year, noted that some Chinese Americans feel more engaged with China than ever because of the unrest in Tibet and subsequent rallies across the United States to defend China's image.
"I think China will overcome this disaster," said Zhang, who donated $2,000 to relief funds through the Chinese Consulate. "The overseas Chinese will show their love and concern."
While Cheng and Zhang represent the region's newer Chinese immigrants, the century-old Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn. in Chinatown is planning a fundraising dinner next week that should match or exceed the $100,000 it raised to aid victims of China's deadly snowstorms during the Lunar New Year, said the group's president, Peter Ng, who was in China on Tuesday.
"I'm here on business, but everything anyone is talking about is the earthquake," Ng said. "People are so devastated."
Zhou De Zhao, an antiquities appraiser in San Gabriel, said he was holding a meeting of fellow Sichuanese immigrants Wednesday to discuss how to drum up financial support.
He was relieved Monday to learn that his family in Chengdu, Sichuan's capitol, was safe. He calls them at least four times a day for updates. But he has tried with no success to contact friends in Dujiangyan, a city with some of the worst damage. He's watched Chinese TV in horror as the city he enjoyed to visit for its historic river and a famous mountain lay in ruins.
"My family told me that in Chengdu everything is stable," Zhou said. "But elsewhere they need tents, food and medicine. If we can give money, we'll give money. If we can give supplies, we'll give supplies."
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How to help
These are some of the charities accepting donations to aid victims of China's earthquake. These and many other charities also are still assisting Myanmar cyclone victims.
American Red Cross
P.O. Box 4002018
Des Moines, IA 50340-2018
Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117
3617 Hayden Ave., Suite A
Culver City, CA 90232