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Shanghai business chambers open hearts and wallets

IT may be as simple as providing books in a school or things as crucial as emergency supplies or ongoing counseling, but Shanghai's foreign business community has provided vital support to help people rebuild their lives in quake-hit Sichuan Province.

Along with a wide range of foreign companies who have donated goods, expertise and money to the rebuilding effort, various chambers of commerce have also used their unique business links to help.

Through a range of social events like annual gala balls or regular monthly social drinks, the chambers in Shanghai have taken the lead to raise millions of yuan for a variety of charity projects.

Many of the projects have focused on rebuilding Sichuan's devastated educational facilities, helping to provide both basic equipment and in some cases rebuilding destroyed schools.

Chambers and their members have donated both money and expertise, and a year on from the devastating quake that took place on May 12, 2008, are looking at building long-term sustainability in the projects they have supported.

The American Chamber of Commerce raised more than 1.1 million yuan (US$127,900) from three major events - its July 4 National Day events and the annual Golf Day and Gala Ball.

AmCham's Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Oliver Yang says the money raised went to two main projects designed to help children and senior citizens.

Some of the funds went to providing a transitional school in Lixian County and also to supporting a health-care program in Anxian County.

Yang says, in keeping with its overreaching philosophy of supporting projects that provide long-term outcomes for communities, AmCham was also looking at using additional funds for micro-finance projects that will help set up local businesses.

"We look at the sustainability and, while some of these micro-finance projects that we are looking at may not have big amount of funding, they have the capacity to make long-term difference in people's lives," Yang says.

Like AmCham, many other chambers decided to put money raised toward rebuilding education infrastructure.

The German Chamber of Commerce also raised more than 1.65 million yuan toward a number of projects.

In the immediate wake of the earthquake, the German chamber raised more than 1 million yuan for the China Red Cross for emergency aid in an effort to get vital supplies to those worst effected.

The chamber has also raised 650,000 yuan for the "From Friends for Friends" Sichuan Project that aims to rebuild an elementary school in Qingchuan, one of the worst-hit areas. The school will house 100 students and construction will start in June.

Both the Australian and British chambers also contributed to projects that focused on rebuilding schools and kindergartens.

AustCham Executive Director Kate Pollitt says the Australian community in Shanghai were moved to help after seeing the devastation the 8.0-magnitude earthquake caused.

"Following the devastating effects of the quake last year, AustCham Shanghai together with the Australian Community opened their hearts and wallets to provide support and relief to the multitudes affected," she says.

The chamber raised 450,000 yuan from its annual Great Australian Ball last year and also contributed funds from its weekly popular Aussie Drinks events.

More than 257,000 yuan was donated toward Sangzao No. 1 Primary School in Anxian County, Sichuan, that suffered over 2,900 square meters of damage in the earthquake. After reconstruction it will cater for 1,500 students and 70 teachers.

AustCham helped to supply a range of equipment including drinking fountains, laser printers and computers. It also contributed 155,000 yuan to provide relief and rebuilding supplies and psychosocial support through the "Xinxing Aid for Street Kids" earthquake relief program.

The program will help 1,000 children in Taibai and Fengxian counties in the south and Lingyou County in the north of Shaanxi Province. The chamber's Aussie Drinks run from May to September last year also raised 40,000 yuan to help provide clothing to children in Mianyang City.

The British Chamber raised more than 86,000 yuan for both the Shanghai Charity Foundation and the Shanghai Red Cross, with some money going toward providing warm winter clothing to a local kindergarten.

The European Union Chamber of Commerce bought a little star power to their fundraising efforts, having martial arts movie star Jet Li attend their gala ball, where 250,000 yuan was raised for Li's One Foundation.


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