Profs, students need help to rebuild schools in China

May 30, 2008

Among supporters of the fundraising drive to rebuild schools in China are (left to right): Yiping Guo (civil engineering), Peidong Wu (mechanical engineering), Gu Xu (materials science & engineering), Luke Chan (associate VP, Office of International Affairs), Changqing Xu (engineering physics). Photo credit: Licy Li (third-year biochemical engineering)
Students accept donations at McMaster as part of a fundraising effort to help build new schools in areas affected by the recent earthquake in China.

A telephone conversation with a McMaster engineering professor traveling in China has sparked a fundraising campaign to rebuild schools devastated by the May 12 earthquake.

Representatives from the Association of Chinese Professors at McMaster University (ACPM) and the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association (MacCSSA), the two organizations leading the fundraising drive at McMaster, were joined by members of the University and Hamilton communities to launch the initiative Thursday.

“This has come together very quickly,” explained Gu Xu, president of ACPM and professor of materials science and engineering at McMaster.  “We have been working non-stop the last 72 hours to get this going.”

The initial target of the campaign is to raise $75,000 (CDN), enough to build one school in the region affected by the earthquake.  McMaster organizers are liaising with Project Hope, an initiative run by Beijing-based China Youth Development Foundation, which has been carrying out school building projects in China for several years.

Media have reported that nearly 7,000 schools have collapsed as a result of the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan Province in southwestern China, trapping and killing thousands of school children. It is estimated that the total death toll in the region has reached 65,000 with more than 23,000 people still missing.

The idea for the fundraising drive began during a phone call from David Embury, professor emeritus of materials science and engineering at McMaster, who is traveling in China, although not in the area affected by the earthquake.

“We were discussing various matters related to China and he mentioned that we should do something concrete to help the people recover from the earthquake,” explaind Gu Xu, president of ACPM and associate professor of materials science and engineering.  “There is a lot of immediate relief funding coming in but we felt it was important to start looking at longer term needs as well.”

Prof. Xu spoke with Luke Chan, associate vice-president, Office of International Affairs at McMaster, who was aware of the work being done for Project Hope.

“We would like this to turn into a more personal relationship,” explains Prof. Xu.  “We want it to benefit people on both sides for many years to come.”

Other members of the Faculty of Engineering supporting this initiative include David Wilkinson, Dean of Engineering; Max Wong, Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Gary Purdy, Professor Emeritus, Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Donations are being collected by the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association at several locations at McMaster as well as at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Hamilton General Hospital.  Donations can also be made online or by mail. 

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