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中文原文在 http://www.ngocn.org/?action-viewnews-itemid-45084

震区NGO,摇摆在进退之间

发布: 2009-5-12 12:18 | 作者: 章剑锋南风窗| 来源: 南风窗网站| 查看: 128

        汶川地震那会儿,郑珂珂和几个同仁满腔热情奔赴灾区,从北京驾车输送物资过去。之后,他们决定呆在那里,继续帮忙。而这种想法在过去一年间,却不断遇挫。

  他们拟向灾区学校提供一些资源援助,以支持当地的教育重建。凡事总需程序,他们若想让自己提供的教学设备和专业志愿者顺利进入学校,需要得到主管部门和具体学校的许可。多数时候,获得理解并不容易;少数几次,他们的志愿者遭到驱逐。
  身为北京泓德中育文化发展中心副主任的郑珂珂说:一年下来,政府能接受,我们就做;不能,我们就走。情况就是这样。
  地震发生之初,据估计,官方放行了约200余家民间组织进入灾区参与协同救援工作,包括一些国际组织在内,志愿者个体更是不计其数。这些自发力量的涌现让灾民感到温暖。
  地震也给灾区带来一些不易察觉的社会问题,稍有不慎将演变成各类事端。维护稳定于是被地方提到核心工作序列,难以控制的外来机构和人员成为潜在的不安定诱因之一。政府逐步加强了对志愿者服务团队和个人的管理。
  灾区要稳定,四川512民间救助服务中心协调人高圭滋对本刊记者说,地震之后,灾区社会更加脆弱,官方将很多精力放在了对付这件事情上。
  对于许多奔赴四川灾区的民间组织或志愿者个体来说,困难时期远未结束。他们随时需要面临选择——离开,或者留下?

  我们不需要他们
  以前我们想再找省政府做做工作,压压他们(地方官员),郑珂珂说,现在我们是能做的做,做不了的就退。
  NGO的进与退取决于地方政府的态度。在这一点上,郑珂珂深有体会。在广元市帮忙救援的时候,他遇见一位对中国教育问题颇有些看法的镇长。两人谈得投机,对方很快邀请他去支援当地教育建设。
  几番往来,见到了分管教育的副镇长和当地主要学校校长,相互接纳的意愿已经明确,派驻志愿者进校助学的计划眼见就要达成。不曾想镇主要领导职务调动,原镇长一走,分管教育的副镇长第二天就知会郑珂珂,合作暂停,理由是新镇长对这事儿有不同看法
  同样的尴尬出现在都江堰。郑珂珂为当地一所全部被震毁的小学提供救助,此后向他们提出派驻志愿者。学校表示欢迎。在未向当地官方汇报的情况下,去年6月初,两位志愿者正式进入学校工作。
  校长特别好,叮嘱我们不要说自己是志愿者,就说是支教老师。白天没事儿就在帐篷里呆着,别乱跑,以免让人看到生面孔。
  事有不虞,学校一位老师向镇政府告发了这件事情,校长只好打电话让郑珂珂把志愿者领走。
  透过官方系统疏通并不管用。为了在灾区立足,他们通过渠道找到四川省委的主要领导,该领导给地方的市委书记打了一个电话,市委书记再给当地教委打电话,约好见面。郑珂珂一方的3个人就从成都坐火车去了,见了面,不仅没有握手寒暄,地方教育官员坐在那里连站起来的意思都没有。这一次,就算有书记的话支持,合作同样没能成功。
  随便一个理由就把你推出来了。他如果想改变,就要千方百计和你合作,他如果不想改变,我就是给他一个班装一个投影仪,他也不干。
  郑珂珂抱着一种碰运气的想法,认为灾区面积如此之大,一地碰壁再换一地,总有去处。就这样,他坚持了接近一年。
  不过,由于官方对NGO的管理正在加强,未来的不确定性一直存在。在绵竹市遵道镇开展社会救助工作的罗世鸿说,也许以后当灾区社会问题越来越多,官方会觉得应该让更多社会机构帮着他们做些事情。
  绵竹市团委和青年志愿者协会在今年4月发出一则通知,要求加强对志愿服务团队和个人的管理。通知声称,在地震周年来临之际,将会有大量志愿者涌入,不排除别有用心的人打着志愿者旗号开展影响社会稳定的活动。
  通知表示,他们已对一些机构和志愿者个人进行了核实和清理,并将继续。他们要求志愿者个人和服务团队进行再次登记,以确定服务时间、服务对象和服务方式。此外,当地官方各部门被要求掌握那些志愿者团队的详细人员名单。
  鉴于这种情况,很多组织不得不选择离开。灾区的NGO绝对数量正在下降。以遵道镇为例,罗世鸿介绍说,在最高峰时期的动员例会上,NGO组织的与会数量有一两百个之间,这种情况保持了两三个月,现在也就十一二个了。
  罗世鸿所在机构没有注册。最开始进入遵道的时候,他们与当地政府保持了愉快而紧密的合作。当时他们和镇政府在同一场地办公,为了发挥这些社会资源在灾后重建中的作用,遵道镇政府成立了以镇党委书记为组长的遵道社会资源协调小组。罗世鸿等加入到这个小组的办公室工作,镇政府还为他们挂了牌,并给了一枚公章。
  一切变化似乎来得太快。本来他们还准备在绵竹团市委注册登记,这件事已是被认可的,但当团市委那个通知突然出炉之后,全部打算都泡了汤。镇政府不再允许他们继续在自己的办公室里呆下去,将他们逐到了板房区。他们还将与那个半政府性质的协调小组办公室脱钩。
  我们准备撤出来,协调办公室的前期负责人之一、罗世鸿的团队成员汪跃云说,与当初相比,现在灾区不再欢迎志愿者。从去年8月份开始,我们就都比较清楚了,这个趋势是必然的。
  在一份有关退出那个协调办公室的报告中,他们也写道,在党委和政府的领导下,遵道镇正逐步恢复生机,回到以往和谐发展的生活中去。我们作为志愿者,所能做的事情会逐步变得有限。在这样的发展形势下,我们将结束在遵道镇近一年的志愿服务工作。
  这,也许将成为一种常态。
  在什邡市洛水镇一个大规模灾民安置点,管委会已经接到官方的指示,他们将把驻在小区内提供3岁以下婴儿洗浴帮助的英国儿童救助会的人员请走
  管委会主任表示,他们把是否为老百姓办实事作为判断一个组织优劣的标准,他们认为救助会不符标准,打着志愿者的旗号什么事也不干,还占据着灾区极为紧俏的板房。
  目前灾区的安置小区几乎都成立了管委会,由一些体制内的抗震救灾先进分子充任成员,他们的职能是管理安置区内的所有事务,其中一项即过问外界人员和组织的进驻与往来。
  洛水镇这位管委会主任一直对这些人保持着高度关注。
  我们也怕发生一些意外和麻烦。你也看到了,我们这里的人心态很好,外人进来问这问那的,没必要。她说,谁知道他们打什么主意。

  要让人放心
  在同一个安置点,也有一些组织深得官方欣赏。NGO备灾中心就是这样。管委会主任对他们的评价是,他们还是做了一些实事的,老百姓看得见,都比较认可。
  这个机构据称是由这位主任介绍给当地官方的。当他们试图在安置点开展工作的时候,找到了她。她告诉他们,你们要进入这里,起码要和政府搞好关系。
  NGO备灾中心的执行主任张国远说,我们进入地方开展工作比较顺利,在资金和政策方面几乎不存在压力。
  赠予亚洲和托克国际两个组织今年向灾区分别投入资金开展项目,NGO备灾中心成为他们的项目执行机构。他们得到300万元项目资金,有200万准备投入到洛水,政府无偿辟出一片土地,让他们建立创业基地。另外100万用于支持境内草根组织工作。有9个组织在招标阶段得到了他们的资金配给,已经在NGO备灾中心的驻在安置点开始工作。
  张国远和另外一些成员原是四川地方的公务员,对体制内的情况非常了解,能较为顺畅地与官员们进行沟通与谈判。他认为这是他们能够搞好官方关系的最大优势。
  你知道,与政府官员的交流和沟通需要在一个特定环境下进行。以前我们和官方交流很多,合作也密切。他们说出来的一些话直译过来意思和他内心要表达的意思是不一样的。他说,有时候存在潜规则,你能听懂就很好,听不懂就很麻烦,需要进入他们的语境。
  张国远现在在汉旺和洛水分设了两个办公室。当他准备设点的时候,先派了一两个人前去与当地人同吃同住同玩,相互熟悉并建立信任,了解社区情况和需求后,建立办公室也就水到渠成了。
  现在他们和当地官方、居民亲如邻居。管委会为他们的办公室挂了牌。他们自己在总结时,谈到了特别重要的两点经验:一、他们的全部工作人员都是四川本地人,这有助于消除沟通距离,产生一种亲和力;二、他们做地方特别是官方需要的事情。比如设立创业基金,为当地人提供创业培训。众所周知,就业一直是令地方政府头疼的问题,如果能够通过培训提升人们的创业技能,地方政府的压力会减轻许多。这也是他们的政绩。
  不过,即使这样,官方也不完全对他们放心。那位管委会主任对本刊记者说,镇政府的领导有时候也会问起,这个机构都在干些什么呢?神神秘秘的样子。
  一定要让他们知道我们的存在,我们在做和将做什么,在汉旺的项目办公室,NGO备灾中心的管理人员张伟看看墙上一堆政府官员的联络信息说,我们会定期将工作进度报告抄送给官方。
  官方对于NGO的拒绝更多时候是因为他们觉得没有把握。研究人士认为,在地震之初,政府之所以允许诸多机构涌入,是因为他们被巨大灾害拖住了身子,无法分散更多精力。他们乐观其成,也需要这些外力共济灾民,直到有精力应付这些额外事务为止。
  在多数地方,外来人员不属于他的管辖范围,他们不知道你会在当地怎么样,把你弄走了他就放心了,高圭滋说,在整个灾区,这方面有一些共通的东西。
  高圭滋所在的四川512民间救助服务平台成立于地震发生之后,旨在为许多寻求进入灾区的NGO提供信息和资源整合一类帮助。通过他们进入灾区的NGO据说超过100家。
  官方对于NGO的排斥也与一些NGO或志愿者自身不洁有关联。在都江堰,官方曾抓获5

志愿者,他们在灾区无所事事,领取各种物资后搭起帐篷,白天睡觉,晚上出门。这引起有关方面的怀疑,他们查出这些人携有撬锁工具。
  5个人真他妈的……”郑珂珂说,现在我们尽量回避志愿者称号,只说自己是支教老师。
  绵竹团市委的那份通知也提及,有一小部分人打着志愿者的旗号做一些违背志愿者精神的事情。对那些违法乱纪的个人和团队将取消服务资格,予以清退,或移送法办。
  这只是一根导火索,官方真正担心的还是外来志愿者对于当地居民情绪的干扰与影响。在通常没有外人的情况下,他们只需要控制住现场,切断各种信息传播渠道,任何事态都可以掌握,不被扩大。外来机构对他们的这种做法构成挑战。
  在一些死亡人数过大特别是学校倒塌过甚的地方,志愿者成为家长们倾诉的对象。这些人是他们认为唯一可以信赖的。这时候,一些年轻志愿者有可能加入到控诉行列,鼓励家长们主张权利。在都江堰,有200位失去孩子的家长曾经情绪激动试图上访,结果全部被武力架回。还不清楚,是否有志愿者参与其中。郑珂珂也认为,志愿者在灾区的工作技巧有待提高。
  你得明白实际情况是什么、该做什么、不该做什么。他说,你不代表你个人,你是一个群体,要抛开个人情绪,要有技巧。

  可持续难题
  NGO自身的能力建设水平也决定了他们在灾区能走多远。早在地震之初,即使官方未加干扰,就境内草根组织而言,能力的薄弱也制约了他们的发挥水准。
  罗世鸿对此颇有感触。他说,我们总是相信有钱就能搞定一切,有物资就可以帮助别人,但慢慢就发现,这个想法是错的。
  在紧急救援阶段,国内外的物资源源不断输送到灾区,仅一个镇就超千万甚至过亿吨。这时候,如何分配物资就是对NGO能力的一种考量。它涉及物流体系、仓储管理、社区调查,只有具备这些专业素养,才能确保公平高效地分发。在遵道镇,罗世鸿等人需要服务2万人,他们有一个100多人的志愿者团队,最终还是乱作一团。
  与他们相比,一些境外组织的专业和高效令人叹为观止。以西班牙人和英国人为例,西班牙小组负责供水,他们只派了3个人。在进行一番技术和专业整合之后,计算出每人每天需要喝多少水、洗漱多少水,基本保障需要多少升等,一番计算后,即刻架起设备供给,两天就确保让15万人用上干净水。英国人的表现同样可圈可点。他们负责厕所设置。当他们知道一个安置区的具体人数后,马上会计算出多少人头需要设置一个厕所,一个厕所能覆盖多大安置点,并相应配备哪些硬件设施。
  紧急救援阶段很快过去,灾区进入重建阶段。对于很多NGO来说,方向发生了转变,必须进入社区工作。这要求他们具备凭借专业技能进行持久作战的能力,仅靠一腔热情是不够的。
  去年10月以后,罗的团队开始对志愿者成员进行日常工作方法培训,他们认为这件事情不能再拖了。更多组织也像他们一样,依然在路上摸索。
  如果不能使自己的综合能力在短期内得到强化与提升,他们只好从灾区黯然收场。这种综合能力包括运作资金的可持续、专业人才的充实以及组织内部管理的有序。
  以资金为例,很多组织不具备筹资能力,没有人给他们资助。一种常见的节省成本的办法是,组织内的每个志愿者需要承担各自的费用,所在组织不为此埋单。在什邡,重庆市助老助残志愿者服务总队的团委书记张斐告诉本刊记者,AA制是灾区NGO的普遍做法,这样组织就没有负担了。
  最初拥有的参与热情,可以支持志愿者自掏腰包献几周爱心,但却很难长久。生存都是问题,乐施会四川办公室的负责人翟凡说,就像每个家庭要过日子一样,没有资金,想都不要想。
  乐施会是唯一一家拿到官方批文可以在灾区工作的国际组织,震后在成都设立了办公室。他们计划在未来35年内投入逾1.3亿港币参与灾区重建,为当地改善小型基础设施和生计状况。资金不是问题。不过即便如此,他们的服务对象和能力也是有限的。灾区的需求空白太多了,没有任何一家组织能够全部包揽。他们所能做的和别的NGO一样,无非是以政府的强大力量和覆盖面为背景,做好配合工作。
  我们也在坚持,翟凡说,到底有多久,也难以说清。
  就目前来看,还有一些NGO或志愿者个人寻求进入灾区工作。四川512民间救助服务中心提醒他们,一定要考虑清楚,事先做好充分准备,否则不要贸然行动。中心的协调人之一田军说,他们很想帮助别人,但要做好可持续的、长期呆下去的打算,当做好事成为一种压力的时候,你会很痛苦,受助者也是。
  即将离去的汪跃云看起来就很无奈。一年来他们一直在努力、在尽力、在成长,只是很多设想都没有展开,就要终结了。他说他们将被当地的老百姓慢慢淡忘,因为并没有如预期那样对社区产生什么深远影响,彼此间的信任都还来不及建立。
  不过,他又极肯定地断言,由于政府提供的服务(特别是软性层面的服务)不能覆盖全部群体与角落,在起到补充与替代作用的NGO陆续离开之后,灾区的潜在需求因不得满足而导致的后果可能会在更长的时间里显现。
  最近北川县委宣传部一位副部长的自杀就引起了社会强烈反弹。当地政府已经发文要求分门别类摸清官员的精神状态,深化干部关爱工作。
  在什邡市的一个安置点,一位灾民对记者说,我们需要这些人(NGO)。
  那是一个晚上,音乐节奏轻快,很多心情不错的灾民在橙红色灯光下跳舞。那片开阔的用帐篷搭建起来的场地是一家NGO组织为他们开辟的娱乐中心。
  灾民说,他们的办事效率比政府要高。
  目前还没有人对NGO在灾区的作用进行一个全面客观的评估,但需求、信任甚至是依赖的确存在。
  有个老乡蹲在家门口,看到对面田坎上有人路过,一看不是本地人,就能判断那是志愿者,心里就有安慰,知道还有人在关心他,人还没有走完。高圭滋说,志愿者不需要做什么事情,也不需要和他打招呼,只需要从那里路过,也许就能挽救一条生命。

Nanfengchuang 南风窗issue of May 6, 2009 震区NGO, 摇摆在进退之间

Officials have been gradually increasing their checks and screening of NGO volunteers. “We cannot exclude the possibility that some people with their own agenda will pretend to be volunteers while doing things that affect social stability.” For some NGOs, limits to their own capacity make it impossible to sustain work in the disaster zone over the long term.

Earthquake Zone NGOs: Wavering Between Leaving and Entering

When the Wenchuan earthquake occurred, Zheng Keke and several colleagues, filled with emotion, rushed to the disaster zone to help. They decided to stay and help. Over the past year people like them have been encountering continual frustration.

They wanted to provide some material support to schools in the disaster area to help in the reconstruction of education. There has to be a special procedure for doing anything – if they wanted to provide educational equipment and professionally trained volunteers to a school, they needed to get permission from the agency in charge and the school itself. Most of the time, getting permission has been difficult, a few times volunteers were actually kicked out.

Zheng Keke, vice director of the Hongde Cultural Development Center of Beijing says that “Over the past year, whatever the government can allow us to do, we do. If not, we leave. That is the situation.”

During the first days after the earthquake, the government allowed over 200 civil organizations, including some international organizations, to go to the disaster area to help in the relief work. In addition, a great number of individual volunteers came as well. This outpouring was a consolation for the people in the earthquake zone.

The earthquake brought some difficult to perceive social problems to the earthquake zone. If people were not careful, things could erupt into an incident. Preserving social stability became job one for the local government and the difficult-to-control people and organizations who came from the outside came to be seen as a potential cause of instability. The government gradually increased its management of volunteer groups and of individual volunteers.

The disaster area needs to be stable.” said Gao Guizi coordinator of the Sichuan 512 Relief Service Center told me. “After the earthquake, society in the disaster area is weaker, and so officials need to give more attention to this issue. “

For the many organizations and volunteers who flocked to the disaster area, the time of troubles is far from being over. At any moment they may be faced with the choice: Leave or Stay.


We Don’t Need Them

Before we would think to getting in touch with provincial officials, to do something, to put pressure on local officials.” Zheng Keke says. “Now we just do what we can, and if we can’t we just withdraw.”

Whether an NGO comes in or withdraws depends upon the attitude of local officials. Zheng Keke understands this very well. When they were doing relief work in Guangyuan, he ran into a township director who was concerned about problems in Chinese education. The two met by accident, and the township head quickly invited them to come help rebuild education in that locality.

After a few discussions, he met the vice township director in charge of education and the principal of the local school and came to a clear agreement with them on volunteers to be sent to the school to help. However, the day after leadership of the township changed and the first township director was transferred, the vice director in charge of education called Zheng Keke and told him that cooperation would be suspended because “the new township head has different views on education.”

The same disappointment was repeated in Dujiangyan. Zheng Keke planned to offer assistance to an elementary school that had been completely destroyed in the earthquake and to send in some volunteers. The school welcomed the volunteers. Before the school had reported to the local authorities, two volunteers went to the school in early June.

The principal was very supportive. He told us not to say that we are volunteers, just say that were teacher’s aides. Stay in the tent when you don’t have anything to do and don’t circulate do that people won’t notice fresh faces.

But it didn’t work out. One of the teachers reported them to the township government and the principal had to call Zheng Keke to tell him that the volunteers had to be withdrawn.

Getting things done through official channels is difficult. In order to get started working in the disaster area, they made contact with a principal leader on the Sichuan Communist Party Committee. That leader made a telephone call to the secretary of the city party committee. The secretary of the city party committee then made a phone call to the local education committee to make an appointment. Zheng Keke and two colleagues took a train from Chengdu to see them. Not only would the education committee members not shake hands, they wouldn’t stand up to greet them either. This time, though they had the support of the secretary, they still couldn’t come to an agreement.

They just come up with one pretext or another to get rid of you. If they want to change, they will think hard to come up with a way. If they don’t want to change, and I give them an overhead projector for a classroom, but they don’t use it. “

Zheng Keke decided to rely on luck. The disaster area is so large, if he runs into a wall in one district he can just switch to working in another. There is always somewhere to go. He has been doing that for nearly a year.

However, because of increasing controls on NGOs, the future remains uncertain. Luo Shihong, who has been doing social assistance work in Zundao Township 遵道镇, Mianzhu City, says that as social problems may continue to grow in the disaster area, officials may well decide that they should let more social organizations come to help.

The Mianzhu City Communist Youth League Committee and Young Volunteers Association in April 2009 issued a notice calling for strengthening management of volunteer groups and individual volunteers. The notice stated that with the one year anniversary of the earthquake approaching, very many volunteers would be flooding into the area, and “We cannot exclude the possibility that some people with their own agenda will pretend to be volunteers while doing things that affect social stability.”

The notice stated that they had done some checking and screening and this would continue. They asked that all individual volunteers service organizations register again, providing information on the times that service is provided, service recipients, and how service is provided. Moreover, all local official departments are required to maintain a detail list of all the names of the volunteers of the various voluntary organizations.

Confronted with this situation, many voluntary organizations felt they had to leave. The number of NGOs working in the disaster area has been declining. Taking Zundao Township as an example, Luo Shihong explained, that the number of NGOs working there peaked between one and two hundred. That period lasted for two to three months. Now there are about a dozen.

Luo Shihong’s organization has not registered. When they started to work in Zundao Township, they had a close and happy relationship with the local government. They worked out of the same offices. In order to make best use of these resources in post-quake reconstruction, the Zundao Township government set up the “Zundao Township Social Resources Coordination Committee” led by the Zundao Township Communist Party Secretary. Lou Shihong took part in the office work supporting the committee. The township gave them a office designation and an official stamp.

Change came too quickly. The had originally planned to register with the Mianzhu City Communist Youth League Committee. It had been agreed to beforehand. But when that notice from the Mianzhu City Youth League came out, those expectations burst like a bubble. The city committee no longer allowed them to work in their own office and pushed them out to the quake shelter area. They were also to be taken out of that semi-governmental coordinating group.

We prepared to withdraw.” said Wang Yueyun, one of the early coordination office director and a member of Luo Shihong’s group. “Unlike the early days, the disaster area no long welcomes volunteers. We have come to understood this since last August, and it is in the logic of things.”

In a report on their withdrawal from the coordinating group, he wrote, “Under the leadership of the Party Committee and government, Zundao Township gradually came back to life, going back to the earlier life it had during the previous period of harmonious development. As volunteers, what we are able to do will become less and less. Under these circumstances, we are bringing to an end nearly a year of volunteer work in Zundao Township.”

This is becoming a commonplace.

In a large quake refugee settlement area in Luoshui Township in Shifang City, the management committee has already received an official directive that they are to ask personnel of Save the Children (UK) 英国儿童救助会which had been providing help with washing infants aged three and under in the small community, to leave.

The management committee said that their standard is whether an organization is helping the public. They believe that “Save the Children” does not meet that standard. They present themselves as volunteers but don’t do anything and they are taking up a refugee shelter space that is very badly needed.

Now management committees have been set up in nearly all the small settlement communities. Some earthquake relief “advanced elements” from within the system have been appointed members of these committees. Their job is to manage everything that goes on in these communities. One of these matters is to ask about the comings and goings of organizations from outside China mainland and their members.

The director of the Luoshui Township management committee keeps a close watch on those people.

We are afraid that some accident or problem will arise. You can see for yourself, we are doing fine. People from the outside coming in to ask about this and that is not necessary.” She added, “Who knows that their real intention is.”

Reassure People

At the same settlement point, there are other organizations much appreciated by officials. One is the NGO Disaster Preparedness Center NGO备灾中心). The director of the management committee said that “They are still doing some work, the people see it and appreciate it.”

The organization said that official introduced the organization to local officials. They also got his help when they started their work in the resettlement area. She told them in order to work there, they had to establish good relations with the government.

The NGO Disaster Preparedness Center director Zhang Guoyuan said their work has been going smoothly. They don’t have nearly no problems with funding or policies.

The two NGOs Give2Asia 赠予亚洲and Trafigura托克国际 allocated funding for the disaster area and the NGO Disaster Preparedness Center became the implementer of their programs. Of the RMB 3 million in funding, 2 million were devoted to Luoshui. The local government gave the free use of land for their office. Another 1 million was allocated to support grassroots NGOs work. Nine NGOs won their support during the bidding process and have already started working out of the offices of the NGO Disaster Preparation Center.

Zhang Guoyuan and some other members are Sichuan local officials who understand the workings of government very well and so were able to set up communication and negotiations with local officials. They believe this is the most important reason they are able to maintain good relations with the local government.

You understand that exchanges and communication with government officials have to be carried out in a certain environment. We have had a lot of contact with officials before and worked closely with them. Some of the things they actually say and what the real meaning of what they say are sometimes different.” He said, “Sometimes there are implicit rules. If you understand then very good, if you don’t you will have a lot of problems. You need to penetrate their special language.”

Zhang Guoyuan set up two offices, one in Hanwang and the other in Luoshui. To prepare to set up work there, he sent two people to live in each place to live, eat and play with the local people. This helped build understanding and trust, knowledge of the needs of the local community. Once this was done, establishing an office was easy.

Now they are as close to local officials and other residents as neighbors. The management committee gave their office an official plaque. They said that two things were particularly important:

  • All their workers are Sichuanese. This helps makes it easier to communicate and building friendly cooperation.
  • They do what the local people, especially officials, want to be done.

For example, they set up an employment creation fund dedicated to training people for jobs. As everyone knows, employment is a big problem for local government. If through training the employment relevant skills of local people are improved, pressure on the local government will be much reduced. This also becomes their own political achievement.

Nonetheless, despite that, officials aren’t entirely satisfied with them. A management committee director told me, the township leadership sometimes will ask “what is that organization doing?” in a mysterious sort of way.

We must make sure that they know we exist and what we are doing.” Zhang Huikan, a manager for the NGO Disaster Center office in Hanwang said looking at the bulletin board filled with contact information for many officials. “We regularly send a progress report on our work to officials.”

Most of the time when officials reject an NGO it is because they don’t know what they are doing. Some researchers believed that officials gave permission for many organizations to go to the disaster area immediately after the earthquake was because they were overwhelmed by the disaster and didn’t have time to pay attention to the question. They looked at it positively and needed the extra help these organizations were bringing. This went on until the officials had time to pay attention to this extra help.

In many places, people who come from the outside are not managed by local officials. They don’t know what you will do so if they can get you to leave they feel relieved.” says Gao Guizi. “In the disaster area, this happened all over.”

The Sichuan 512 NGO Services Center to which Gao Guizi belong was founded after the earthquake to provide information and resources to the many NGO requesting to work in the earthquake disaster area. It is said that the 512 Center has assisted over 100 NGOs.

Some of official attitude against NGO as to do with the unethical behavior of some NGOs or volunteers. In Dujiangyan, officials caught five “volunteers”. They had collected a lot of relief materials in their tent. They were doing nothing in the disaster zone, just sleeping in their tents by day and going out at night. This incident made the authorities suspicious, so they checked on these people and found that they had lock picking tools.

Those five really messed things up…” Zheng Keke said. “Now we avoid the word volunteer. We only say we are teacher assistants.

The Mianzhu City Communist Youth League notice also mentioned this problem, saying that there are a small number of people who pretend to be volunteers but do things completely against the spirit of volunteerism. Volunteers and organizations that violate the law or regulations will have their service credentials cancelled by the Youth League, asked to leave or be handed over to police.

This is only a fuse that could lead to trouble. What officials really worry about is that volunteers from the outside will stir up the emotions of local people and influence them. If there are no outsiders around, they only need to control the site of the problem, cut off all means of communication, and they can control any problem, and it will not be made bigger. The presence of outside organizations is a challenge to this method of control.

In a place where there have been a particularly large number of deaths, especially if a school collapsed, the parents look to the volunteers as the only people upon whom they can rely. In these situations, some young volunteers may become one of those making accusations. They might encourage parents to stand up for their rights. In Dujiangyan, 200 parents who had lost children made an emotional plan to present a petition. They were all stopped by armed force. It isn’t clear whether volunteers were with them. Zhang Keke said that the skills of volunteers working in the disaster area need to be improved.

You need to know what the real situation is and what needs to be done and what shouldn’t be done”, he said. “You don’t represent yourself, you are a group. You need to put emotion aside, and handle things in a skillful way.”

Sustainable Difficulties

NGO capacity determines who long they can serve in the earthquake disaster zone. In the early days after the disaster, before there was official intervention, weak capacity prevented grassroots NGOs within China mainland from being equal to the task.

Luo Shihong has experience with this. He said, “We always thought that if we had money, we could handle anything, if we had supplies we could help people. But we gradually realized that kind of thinking is wrong.”

During the crisis relief period, supplies from within China and abroad poured into the earthquake disaster area. Sometimes tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies reached a single township. Distributing those supplies became a big test of the NGOs. This involves supply chain management, warehouse management, and community surveys. Only people who possess these special skills can ensure that assistance is fairly and effectively distributed. In Zundao Township, Luo Shihong and others needed to serve 20,000 people. They were 100 volunteer organizations. It was poorly coordinated.

The specialized knowledge and efficiency of some organizations from outside China mainland awed them. One example were the NGOs from Spain and the United Kingdom. The Spanish group, in charge of supplying water, only sent three people. After doing some technical calculations on how much water each person would need to drink each day and how much water would be needed for washing, they determined how many liters of water would be needed. They set up their equipment and within two days were supplying clean water to 15,000 people. The British were equally efficient. They were in charge of toilets. After they knew the number of people in the resettlement area, they calculated how many toilets they would need to install and how large an area each toilet could serve, then installed the necessary hardware.

The period of urgent relief passed quickly and the earthquake disaster area entered the rebuilding phase. For many NGOs, this was a period of transition when they needed to go into the community to work. This required them to possess skills needed to keep working over the long term. Wanting to help wasn’t enough.

In October 2008, Luo Shihong group began giving training on how to do daily work effectively to the members of the group. They believed this training could no longer be put off. Many organizations like them are still feeling their way forward.

If they cannot in a short time quickly increase their overall capacity, they will have to leave. This overall capacity includes sustaining funds for operations, finding workers with special skills, and orderly management of the internal workings of the organization.

Taking funding as an example, many organizations are able to raise money and nobody is giving them money. One common way of saving money is for each volunteer to be responsible for their own expenses rather than the organization. In Shifang, Zhang Pei, the Party Secretary of the Chongqing Volunteers to Help the Elderly and Handicapped, told me this is a common method of NGOs working in the disaster area, so the organization does not have this burden.

The early volunteers, were passionate about helping, so they could tighten their belts and guive of themselves for a few weeks. But they couldn’t last for long. Cui Fan, director of the Sichuan office of Oxfam says, “Surviving is always a consideration. Just like a family in its daily life, when its finances run low, everything becomes difficult.”

Oxfam is the only international organization that received written official permission to operate in the earthquake disaster area. It set up an office in Chengdu after the earthquake. They expect over the next three to five years to spend HK$ 130 million on earthquake reconstruction, repairing small local infrastructure and living conditions. Funding is not a problem. Even so, they do face limits on who they can deliver services to and capacity limitations. There are many places with unmet needs. No organization can do it all. They and other NGOs can only succeed by working together with government, with its large capacity and its coverage of all of this vast area.

We also are not certain”, said Cui Fan, “just how long we will be able to continue.”

Currently, there are still some NGOs and individual volunteers who seek to work in the earthquake disaster area. The Sichuan 512 NGO Services Center cautions them that they need to think carefully and prepare well and not act rashly. Tian Jun, one of the center’s coordinators, these people want to help others but they must be prepared to sustain their assistance over the long term. “When doing good puts you under a lot of pressure, you can suffer a lot and so will the people you are helping.”

Wang Yueyun, who is about to leave, feels there is nothing that can be done about it. For a year they have “worked hard, done all they could and grown”. Many of their efforts didn’t get started or have come to an end. He said that they will gradually be forgotten by the local people because they were not able to make as a big a difference to the local community as they had hoped and they were not able to build trust between themselves and the community.

However, they are convinced that the services provided by the government (especially services, the software aspect of things) cannot cover the needs of all the people and the entire area, there will be, as the NGOs that filled in these gaps depart one after another, there will be unmet needs that will have consequences in the disaster area for some time to come.

Recently, the suicide of a deputy director of the Beichuan County Communist Party Committee Propaganda Department attracted much attention. The local government has already issued a document calling for an enquiry into the psychological state of local officials and to take better care of government and party cadres.

In the Shifang City settlement camp, a refugee said, we need these people (NGOs).

It was an evening, the music was relatively fast, and many refugees were happily dancing under some red lights. They were using a big tent set up by an NGO to provide them with an entertainment center.

The refugee said, “The NGOs are more efficient than the government.”

Thus far, nobody has done an overall, objective assessment of NGO work in the disaster area. But the need, the trust in NGOs and the reliance upon them does certainly exist.

Some country people were at the door of their home, they say in the field opposite someone passing by. They saw it was someone from outside, they can guess that it is a volunteer. They know that someone cares about them and that they haven’t left. Gao Guizi continued, “The volunteer doesn’t have to do anything, they don’t even have to wave, they just need to pass by, and by doing so they might even save a life.”

Chinese text from http://www.ngocn.org/?action-viewnews-itemid-45084

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