As rescue workers struggle to reach remote areas stricken by the Yaan Earthquake, WeChat, much maligned by China’s useless telcos and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, is proving to be the best organisational tool at NGOs disposal.
SCMP’s Patrick Boehler explains:
The WeChat group, Chengdu Public Welfare Circle, was originally meant to bring together social welfare organisations in the city and train them in using microblogs and WeChat, an instant-messaging application for smartphones.
Chengdu’s phone network was paralysed after the earthquake, but WeChat was still operating. “There was chaos, and we didn’t know how to respond. We were lucky to have that WeChat group,” said Fu. “All the leaders of social welfare organisations were in it and could discuss how to react.”
Within hours on Saturday morning, the groups decided on a venue to collect donations and spread the news to their organisations, friends and on their own microblogs.
On Sunday, the umbrella organisation born out to the WeChat group had already sent volunteers on motorbikes to the disaster zone and set up first-aid camps.
By Tuesday, it had sent 23 trucks of supplies, Fu said.
Meanwhile, many Sichuan residents have expressed frustration at government-led relief efforts, which they say is failing to distribute food and water to those in need.