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Searching for new ways and targets in life

WITHIN months, 1.2 million of the 1.5 million who became jobless or lost property in the quake were able to find employment again. But because of the global financial crisis, the quake-hit areas face an even worse job market this year. Wu Chen finds victims who have found hope in different ways.

Raise the rifle, aim at the target, pull the trigger, put the rifle down, and raise it again. Tian Fugang has been repeating these moves for a whole afternoon at a shooting range in the Sichuan Land Sports School. Only the sound of triggers being clicked can be heard.

Now the training session has ended with good news for Tian. "I have been accepted," he smiles.

The 22-year-old former technician, who was paralyzed in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12, 2008 in southwest Sichuan Province, had surgery and rehabilitation treatment until earlier this year.

He realized he had begun a new dream after watching the Beijing Paralympic Games in September.

Thanks to the West China Hospital's rehabilitation treatment and the media coverage, Tian, originally a football fan, got the opportunity to start training with the Sichuan provincial shooting and archery team in early April.

Tian passed the test and became a shooter after four weeks of training.

"He is talented and can remain calm and concentrate on his shooting, which is very important," said his coach Wang Ping.

Tian was also pleased to learn that the school is covering the cost of his accommodation and is giving him a daily allowance of 20 yuan (US$3).

If he performs well in nationwide events, he will have a chance at being selected for the national team.

"I'm relaxed a little bit now - I can see some hope for the future," Tian said.

He Fang, who lived in another seriously hit area, the Hongbai Township of Shifang City, shared similar feelings to Tian as she gained confidence again.

He's daughter was buried under the debris of her kindergarten for two hours before He and her husband dug her out helped by other parents - all just using their bare hands.

"Our fingers were bleeding. I was scared. Only two of the six children buried together survived," she recalled.

The 8.0-magnitude quake that hit southwest China, including many parts of Sichuan, on May 12 killed more than 69,000 people. It also left nearly 18,000 missing, more than 374,000 injured and millions homeless.

The six-year-old girl has lived in fear for a long time and refuses to go into the temporary housing. Even now, the little girl will only sleep while being held in someone's arms.

He lost her voice for more than one week. Both the husband and wife have been deeply depressed for a long time.

Early this year, she and her cousin opened a "makeshift hair salon" near the temporary-housing area of Hongbai.

With no decorations and very basic facilities, He does haircuts and simple hairdressing, which brings her family a daily income of about 200 yuan.

"I have to live on for my daughter. I can only forget the agony through hard work," she said.

She plans to rent a house to continue the business after their new township is completed.

However, her husband has not yet found a job. He fetches water for the salon, and idles away the rest of the day.

"It's hard to find jobs either in or outside the province," He said.

Her worries were also the concern of the government that has highlighted the employment issue in the reconstruction plan in September.

Within months, 1.2 million of the 1.5 million who became jobless or lost property in the quake were able to find employment again.

But because of the global financial crisis, the quake-hit areas face an even worse job market this year.

Jia Dechun, director of the makeshift housing area for residents from old Beichuan County, said that less than half of the 7,000 jobless people in his area have found employment, although local government has organized vocational training and provided employment information.

Jia said these people used to earn a living by leasing houses or running small businesses, which did not require many skills or physical strength.

"They can't accept the new lifestyle which means they have to make a bigger effort than before to feed their families," Jia said, adding that they have to change their attitude before they look for work.

Jia admits it will not be easy for them to change.

Fu Huajian, 42, a resident in the region, was a headman at construction sites. He couldn't find post-quake employment until recently. "I'm too old to compete with younger job hunters. Now I'm living on savings," said Fu, whose 17-year-old son died in the quake.

He and some friends have enrolled at a driving school hoping to get licenses and become drivers.

Jia said employment remained the biggest pressure for him at the moment. "A job is very important for people here because it helps people forget grief and look forward to a brighter future," he said.

Tian Fugang is lucky to have fixed his goal - trying to catch his teammate Dong Chao, who won a bronze medal in the men's air rifle event at last year's Paralympics.

"I cherish this opportunity very much and will practice hard in order to go to London for the next Paralympics," he said.


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