Relief aid sought for China's quake victims

By Shannon Mullen, Ashbury Park Press, May 15, 2008

New Jersey, USA -- First came shock, then frantic phone calls attempting to reach loved ones in China.

Now, with the number of those killed in the central China earthquake expected to rise sharply from the current tally of some 15,000 people, the area's ethnic Chinese community is gearing up to raise funds to aid survivors.

Volunteers from the Tzu Chi Foundation USA, a Buddhist humanitarian organization that is actively helping survivors in the earthquake zone, will be collecting funds outside supermarkets and stores across New Jersey this Sunday, said Jackson Chen, the foundation's executive vice president. The foundation, which is located in Cedar Grove Township in Essex County, is one of the few relief groups that have been allowed to operate in Myanmar in the wake of the recent cyclone there.

"People are expecting a lot from us because we are very fast in helping people," said Chen, a resident of Wyckoff, Bergen County.

Holmdel resident Jinny Chuang and her family are active in the foundation. Chuang owns Jersey Travel Inc., a travel agency in Edison that specializes in travel to China. This week, her office, where business is conducted in Chinese, has become a clearinghouse of information for the area's Chinese community. Chuang and her employees have been helping callers trying to contact relatives. They've also been disseminating the latest information from a Chinese-language satellite news network, which they've been watching in the office. The network has provided continuous coverage of the disaster, in graphic detail.

"They don't censor (the footage) as much as we do here," said Chuang's daughter, Ann Chuang, 22, also of Holmdel, who works part time for her mother. "I had to stop watching it because I couldn't stop crying."

This weekend, the Huaxia Chinese School in Marlboro, which is part of a network of Chinese-language schools throughout the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, will be collecting donations from families involved in the school, and the Monmouth Chinese Christian Church in Middletown is also launching an emergency fund drive.

The Simply Help Foundation, an international humanitarian organization, and the recently formed Simply Help Youth Group, made up of teenagers and young adults from Monmouth County, are also organizing a relief effort, though the details haven't been worked out yet, said Gloria Liu, a foundation volunteer from Middletown.