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Chengdu Diary 5/17/08 - 6/16/08


Dear CAPA members and friend:This is a kind of nuts and bolts report of what I have been doing up until the 10th. Today I will write a report about my visit to a devastated village with 110 dead children and also about some plans to reduce the chaos.

I get up at about 5 and fall into bed at midnight. New volunteers continue to email me, the result of all of you sending on my postings to other people and groups.  Thank you. Many of the volunteers are Mandarin speakers. Every day I hear from or meet with volunteers, both Chinese mental health people I have known and volunteers from all over with whom I have been in contact. I will put in bold print requests I have from all of you. I left NY on Monday and arrived here late last Tuesday night. I am staying at a Sichuan University guesthouse, a large three star hotel on the edge of campus. Chengdu's climate is like that of Savannah, hot humid---but there is less pollution than on any of my previous visits. The city is bustling, all the classy high-end shops, boutiques (places like Prada etc) are filled with smiling shoppers and lots of beautiful clothing, etc. The only sign of the earthquake is the small tent cities that have been used to house local Chengdu people whose houses fell down. About 1000 people died in Chengdu, but there is no feel of a place only 40 miles from devastation. There has only been one mild set of tremors since I came. I was sitting in my 4th floor room with two Chinese volunteers from a local medical school. I asked, “What do we do?” They said, Keep on talking-- and so we did. The city is flooded with volunteers, NGOs, individuals.  Most of the volunteers coming here have had no training at all. While different branches of the government and some private groups have been trying to create some organization, the huge scope of the disaster and the outpouring of aid from so many different sources makes that very difficult.

The first 3 or 4 days I worked finishing the translation and formatting of Gil Kliman's Mercy Corps workbook for children (as well as doing my own work). The book is still not published and I despair of bureaucracy, the least of which in this matter is the Chinese government.  The Mercy Corps bureaucracy is impenetrable.  I am glad that I am working alone, responsible only to my Board and they have just been cheering me on. The publisher is very generous, printing and giving Mercy the book at cost. Mercy will either sell to other organizations at cost or just give to them.The rest of my time has been arranging meetings at all the universities where I have old contacts and also new ones who have called me.  Somehow I have become a well-known person here.  As you know, before I left I had arranged live, on-line training for about 1000-1200 mental health professionals in Beijing and Shanghai and 4 other cities. Here I have been arranging for on-line training and for training by live trainers.


Jeff Taxman, an American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and trainer will be here tomorrow night. I have arranged three very large trainings for him so far and he will be training the Chengdu CAPA group, which has asked others to join the training.

Ken Lee, a wonderful Hawaiian trainer, will arrive in Beijing next week to train for the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Beijing University Department of Psychology and then, I hope come here to Chengdu to do some more trainings. Gang Sun is arriving with a colleague in three days and will participate in a large training.

We need more trainers here. Child people are particularly needed, but all are necessary.


1. Sichuan Normal University Department of Education (new contact-emailed me): On-line general disaster training from Disaster Psychiatry Outreach in New York City) for Education, Psychology departments professors and graduate students

2. Sichuan University Department of Counseling -3 day live training with other groups invited to participate. 100-200 people general and specific topics to be covered: Mercy corps and Jeff Taxman

3. South West China University for Finance and Economics (SWUFE) - Live Disaster training for counselors and others- Jeff Taxman. They have more than 15 students and faculty who have lost their whole families and 300-400 students and faculty who have lost their homes and more distant family members. I have lectured there and offered my help too. American Group Therapy Association will provide on line training in dealing with these groups of bereaved people.

4. Young Communist League of Sichuan Province. Via EAP, Asked me to set up a three-day training program for them.  There will be 6 live trainers including myself. More than 100 volunteers with training and psychology backgrounds applied to the YCL for training. 

5. South West China University for Nationalities Live Disaster training for counselors, social workers, psychologists, faculty and graduate students They have more than 300 faculty members and students who have lost parents or other family members An art class of 300 students happened to be on a drawing expedition to a village when the earthquake struck. One of them was killed--the rest severely traumatized. American Group Therapy Association will provide on line training in dealing with these groups of bereaved people.

6. University of Electronic Science and Technology of China just emailed me requesting training

7. Sichuan CAPA group- Live training on many aspects of trauma and problems for the ensuing year. Jeff Taxman they have organized a three-day training by Jeff where more than 200 Buddhists will attend.

8. The chairman of the Department of Psychiatry of the Sichuan University medical School just called for an appointment to discuss training. This is a group that has in the past refused to see me to discuss psychoanalysis.

9. OXFAM is building 10 new schools in the disaster area. As these are built OXFAM will give the children's workbook to the teachers whom Mercy corps will train. I will try to find a team of disaster workers to adopt those villages.

My visits and lectures to these universities there has made the following things clear.

1. Everyone needs Basic Trauma Training

2. Many of the volunteers are quite distressed as they go up to the earthquake zone, return and then go up again. All of them need support. Some need more than that.

A. I will offer the distressed volunteers who email me American volunteers who can give them support via Skype and/or email.

B. I am urging the universities and other groups to arrange times when the volunteers can talk about their experiences and concerns with each other and with more senior counselors and psychologists

C. I am arranging for those who request it for brief supervisions with our volunteers.

3. There is a great need for more training in very specific areasworking with children.

We are training people to use, via Mercy Corps, Gil Kliman's Earthquake Workbook, but that is not sufficient.  There are very few child psychiatrists and psychologists in China.

Here is an example of the lack of knowledge. South West China University for Finance and Economics had a branch in one of the worst hit towns. 1000 partial and total orphans were air lifted to their campus in Chengdu. Just yesterday some of the kids were suddenly moved to another place-not a good idea, I thought, to keep moving these kids around. The custodial staff of the university is caring them for, though some of the student health counselors are working with them.  They stay in makeshift dormitories with little to do. Luckily some are being restored to their partial families. Because of worries about their safety, the younger kids are not allowed out doors. There are said to be about 1000 total orphans in the disaster area. Other family members will adopt some: some will be offered for adoption by the families who have lost their only child. Many others in China have asked to adopt these children. But China has no real history of adoption and no trained professionals to work with the orphans and their adopting families.

We need people to devise a training program for adoption: Both for mental health professionals and for adopting families and adopted children. Have it translated into Chinese-I can provide the names of translators-and put on DVDs for distribution.

As more weeks pass we will need people to train Chinese mental health professionals in PTSD work

5. We need more people to come to China, train people, and develop an ongoing relationship with the group that you train. If you cannot come to China, this can be done on Skype and very low cost telephone.

The model I hope to follow is to get each organization or university to work providing all mental health services to as many towns and villages as they can. And to get one American disaster person or good organizer provide access to all the services and training each town needs. I would like your feedback.

Back to Reports Page5/20/2008

Dear Colleagues:

A very quick update.  Things in Sichuan are still awful. Everyone in Chengdu is sleeping out of doors in parks, university playing fields etc because of expected very strong after shocks. When I speak with them, they are very appreciative of our support.

AdultsI have request from ten institutions for disaster training. As of this morning, hospitals, departments of psychiatry and psychology, and counseling agencies have asked me for training for more than a thousand mental health professionals. The American Psychiatric Association International Center for Psychosocial Trauma and the New York based Disaster Psychiatry Outreach will provide this training live in 3-5 hour sessions.The group in Chengdu has asked that someone come and Jeff Taxman, a CAPA person, has volunteered to go. He will go in any case but we are trying to raise funds to defray his costs. A number of groups want Advisors to work with them for about a year as they deal with both early and late effects of the disaster. 

Volunteers? I am not including everything but you have some idea.ChildrenI am working with Mercy Corps, an American Foundation, already in China which will be training people to use the workbook and they will deliver it and with Gil Kliman. About 20 publishers have been vying for the opportunity to publish and it will be available at cost---or less. Mercy Corps may order 50,000 copies. Gil Kliman has rewritten the workbook and it is being translated and people in the Art Department of Sichuan University have made new illustrations. Professors at several Chengdu Universities will be trained to train teachers, parents and aid workers in the use of the workbook. A group of child psychiatrists from Beijing who will be working in Sichuan asked for a mentor and ultimately we will need child people to consult with the teachers and aid workers via Skype or email.

People from all over America, Canada, Australia, Hawaii have volunteered to help and about 20 of them are actively translating different sections of the Workbook. I get about 20-30 emails an hour with various requests. If you have skills that you think would be useful, please email me.


Dear Colleagues:

I have been coordinating some efforts to provide psychological assistance to people in Sichuan Province.


1. Many groups, hospitals, university departments and individuals in China have written asking for advice, training (some wanted volunteers to come to China) from Americans who are knowledgeable about psychological aspects of disasters. We have already arranged for one American volunteer to go to Chengdu and work with a group there.

2. We are arranging for rewriting, translation, and publishing in China of  "My Earthquake Story" (a children's' workbook with well documented successful results in preventing and ameliorating later effects of natural disasters). Gil Kliman the director of The Children's Psychological Health Center made it available. We are in touch with three interested Chinese publishers.

3. We will be working with at least two US foundations, maybe more, several branches of the Chinese Red Cross, & a major Chinese counseling company, etc etc etc. WE NEED VOLUNTEERSPlease email me if you can consult with individuals or groups about working with people affected by disasters using email, phone, Skype. Or if you are available to go to China. Or if you have other knowledge or skills we and they can use.

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