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Not one missed

China, April 29, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Yue Yao/Mercy Corps  </span>
    A boy injured by the earthquake lays in a tent at a displacement camp in Yushu. Photo: Yue Yao/Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Hygiene kits stacked and ready for distribution. Photo: Mercy Corps

A coupon is a simple piece of paper, but a popular way for customers to exchange something in return for a product or service. Here in Yushu, coupons are helping us a lot in our work by reducing the risk of unfair distribution.

On the early morning of April 28, we sent two groups with 315 coupons to an area beside the Zaqu river — an area that's serving as a displaced earthquake survivors camp, where there are 220 households without organization or any camp leaders The number of households changes every day, so we decided to start distribution here with an estimated 315 coupons that families could exchange for hygiene kits.

Once we arrived at the camp, I started to realize that it was kind of dangerous, because almost every family had more than one Tibetan dog — a ferocious and very territorial dog. We were very careful to visit each household —one by one — to verify the number of family members and to tell them how the coupon should be used, as well as the time and place of distribution.

In total, we distributed 224 coupons. It was really tiring physically and nerve-wracking mentally. And then, when we thought we had finished work in that camp, a Tibetan lady came to tell us her family hadn’t received a coupon and that her tent was on the other side of the camp. At that time, I felt like a solder crossing a field of land mines again — but we had to come back with her to make sure.

We had to make sure that no one had been missed.

The distribution that followed that afternoon was very successful: we had an emergency line around the buffering area, with volunteers walking around to help facilitate, and one local staff to verify the coupons and make sure that everyone sign a hygiene kit receipt with their fingerprint.

One older lady was particularly happy to get her hygiene kit. She left the distribution area with her granddaughter, but not before telling our local volunteer this: “There was some distribution here before, and I am old enough to remember it. The way you did it today was very good. I didn’t need to run fast or carry anything too heavy."

I saw the older lady disappear back into the camp. The line became shorter and shorter. People with coupons came and got their hygiene kits quietly. Those who didn’t have coupons were politely refused because we had one rule: only those with coupons could receive kits, to be fair.

Today, April 29, our team has delivered 434 coupons to another earthquake displacement camp in Yushu Park. The distribution location will be near the entrance to park — and we're hoping that everyone will be on time, coupons in hand.