Mission to rebuild shattered lives
In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, KPMG swung into action almost immediately. Within 24 hours, the firm's corporate social responsibility (CSR) team had set up a donation mechanism and sent out an appeal to all staff, confirming too that the partnership's special foundation would match contributions dollar for dollar.
A massive response saw 4 million yuan (HK$4.54 million) sent in the initial relief stage to pay for water, food, tents and transitional housing, helping thousands of survivors to rebuild their lives.
"But we also began to think about mid-to-long-term efforts and what we could do with the remaining money to initiate a sustainable programme and benefit the local community," says Diana Tsui, CSR director for KPMG.
The result is now nearing completion. A new community centre in Cifeng county, close to the epicentre of the quake and about 90 minutes by car from Chengdu, is due to open in April. It will offer after-school programmes, a kindergarten, library, courses for adults and training in vocational skills.
"In helping to rebuild, we wanted people to have something to channel their energy to where they can run the activities, feel the community is up and running again and have a sense of ownership," Tsui says.
Built from locally-sourced bamboo, recycled timber and other environmentally-friendly materials, the centre will also set new benchmarks in terms of construction in Sichuan.
Architects and engineers have borrowed Japanese expertise on quake-resistant building techniques. They have also ensured the design maximises natural light and promotes energy efficiency with solar-powered systems for what will be one of the world's largest all-bamboo structures. While KPMG was the major donor, chipping in more than a million yuan, partners provided land, tax concessions or services in kind. China Children and Teenagers' Fund, a mainland-based non-governmental organisation, provided on-the-ground guidance to deal with any problems.
"Working with partners towards a common goal is the essence of state-of-the-art projects such as this," Tsui says. "They each bring in strengths but, in the end, the community will have to drive and sustain it. We will continue to work with them on a regular basis and, through our office in Chengdu, our people will be involved in training courses and after-school classes."