Volunteer Keqiang Ye stood at 10th and Arch Streets yesterday politely greeting passersby as they dropped donations to aid survivors of China's earthquake into the cardboard box he held.
Xie xie, xie xie
," said Ye, expressing "thank you" in his native language. Ye had seen the news of the massive 7.9 earthquake, which hit a mountainous region in Sichuan province Monday. As of yesterday afternoon, 28,881 people were confirmed dead, with a final tally expected to reach 50,000. Nearly five million have been displaced, Chinese authorities say.
"It has touched my heart," said Ye, 18, from North Philadelphia. "Even though I am not rich, I wanted to do something to help them."
At Franklin Square, the scene was repeated as donations were collected from the crowd at the second annual celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Many Chinese immigrants and families of Americans of Chinese descent in the Philadelphia region hail from a part of China that's far from the quake's epicenter.
Still, the Philadelphia-area community has raised about $100,000 for the Sichuan Earthquake Relief Fund, said Steven Zhu, head of the Fujian Association of Greater Philadelphia. It is not the first time the group has pulled together for disaster relief. Members collected $50,000 after Hurricane Katrina and $80,000 for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami victims, Zhu said.
"We had a moment of silence earlier," said Doug Chin, chairman of the planning committee. The event paused to honor the quake victims and those affected by the devastating cyclone that struck Myanmar on May 2.
About 3,000 were expected to attend the heritage celebration, which featured entertainment, food booths, games, and arts and crafts.
"Asian Americans have added to the richness of life in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth," said Gov. Rendell, who was at the festival.
Rendell, who had planned to attend six events yesterday, spent much of the time at the celebration surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers taking his photo.
"Why not?" asked Nick Shenoy, 59, of Frazer. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
At the booth sponsored by the Organization of Chinese Americans, Michael Chan, 80, of Merion, was busy writing people's names in Chinese. Chan said he often helped at the Greater Philadelphia Cantonese Academy by teaching calligraphy.
His grandson Matthew Ng, 12, stood by watching.