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March 23, 2011

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Charity flea market for quake aid

A flea market this Saturday at 1933 Old Millfun creative park will raise funds to aid survivors of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Xu Wei reports.

Flea markets are popular for young people with overflowing closets and a desire for new fashion. They're always popular with people who want to save money.

Shanghai has dozens of weekend flea markets all around the city, and their numbers increase as the weather improves.

On Saturday, the proceeds from a flea market at 1933 Old Millfun creative park will benefit survivors of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. It is organized by the Shanghai Gongyijia Team, a charity organization started in 2008. It aids children of migrant workers, people in poor rural areas and autistic children. It offers counseling to fresh college graduates who are stressed-out about leaving school and entering the workplace.

Vendors are welcome.

The flea market offers clothes, fashion, accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, handicrafts, books and magazines, kitchenware, appliances, toys, pet items, art work and homemade food, among other things.

Li Jiaqin, an art and design major at Shanghai University, will take her DIY accessories and trinkets. She sells each for 20-30 yuan (US$3-$4.5).

"I have been a frequent vendor at the flea market since 2008," Li says, adding that she earns 400-500 yuan each time.

But the profit isn't important, she says. "The market is a networking place where I make new friends, help needy people and find fulfillment in life."

Shanghai Gongyijia Team holds charity flea markets once or twice a month, says Zhang Lanlan, an official with the organization.

Each flea market attracts around 100 vendors and 2,000 consumers, mostly young white-collar professionals, college students and expats, says Zhang.

Sometimes it attracts whole families who consider it an outing and chance for bonding between parent and child.

The most popular items are handmade crafts, clothes, accessories and creative products. Most items are very affordable, priced from several yuan to tens of yuan.

Referring to the charity's counseling efforts, Zhang says that quite a few shy people who volunteer at flea markets and other activities find that their self-confidence and communications skills have improved.

Some vendors take their pets to the market. Mika Li frequently takes her cat Garfield and many visitors want their pictures taken with the young woman and her feline.

"When I sold my DIY fashion accessories, Garfield lay curled up by my side," says Li. "With his help, I managed to sell many items and make new friends."

Shanghai's flea markets are bustling. Of the estimated dozens, the Wuguantang and Fengguo flea markets are well known. Sometimes they hold charity sales.

Zhang Jie, a local agent for the Hong Kong toy brand C.I.BOYS, says flea markets are win-win-win, for the shoppers, the needy groups and the vendors.

He usually presents around 100 creative limited edition toys at markets, selling them for around 17 yuan each, half the price in Hong Kong.

"We're very willing to donate some gifts and ingenious children's toys to the market," he says. "All of us can benefit from this form of exchange that goes beyond money."

"I love this sustainable way of making a charitable donation," says Connie Zheng, a local company worker. "Compared with a cash donation, it is sweeter, heartwarming and interactive. Many memorable items I bought at charity markets also interest my family and friends. In this sense, love is a relay."

The enthusiasm and determination of young vendors is impressive and many try to promote their brand instead of making quick returns.

"The dedication and zeal of these young people encourages me to realize my dream of owning my own business," says Xu Zhongqing, a retired teacher who sells his homemade cookies and creative picture frames at flea markets.


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