By Howard Koplowitz
Six months after the Sichuan earthquake uprooted his life, Mu Zijian has found some stability after Asianâˆ’American physicians and the North Shoreâˆ’Long Island Jewish Health System collected $20,000 for him to attend a Long Island college.
Hospital officials, doctors, the State University of New York and City Councilman John Liu (Dâˆ’Flushing) presented Mu with a $20,000 check at Liu’s office last week to cover tuition for a year at Farmingdale State College on Long Island. Flushing has a large Chinese population and some members lost relatives or had family affected by the massive earthquake.
“The community had stepped up in ways that are truly astounding,” Liu said, noting that the effort to bring Mu and 149 other students affected by the Sichuan earthquake to SUNY schools developed over months.
Dr. Lisa Eng, a member of the Flushingâˆ’based Association of Chinese American Physicians, said the organization sent two doctors to Sichuan to find out how the nonprofit could help victims.
“There were multiple opportunities that we found,” Eng said. “At that moment in May, we felt the earthquake was of paramount importance.”
Robert Dubicki, the senior vice president of ambulatory care at North Shoreâˆ’LIJ, said one in five Flushing residents who are hospitalized are being treated at one of the health system’s facilities. He said North Shoreâˆ’LIJ was “a major provider of services in Flushing.”
“The diversity of the donations was so broad,” he said of the $20,000 raised to help Mu attend college on Long Island.
SUNY Vice Chancellor Nick Rostow said the state’s university system offered to take 150 students from China’s Sichuan province and place them at a state university for two semesters.
In return, he said, the students pledged to go back to their hometowns when the year is up and perform community service.
“The true meaning of this is a bridge of learning and understanding in the aftermath of human tragedy,” the councilman said.
Mu said the college experience has made him more confident.
“I feel very warm inside my heart,” he said without the aid of an interpreter. “The program is so significant to me. It changed me. I was a shy boy before and I’m a speaker now.”
He said his “entire hometown is destroyed,” but his family is beginning to see some semblance of normalcy six months after the devastating 7.9 earthquake killed 12,000 in western China.
“My parents are okay,” Mu said. “They’re working now.”
The state university’s effort, dubbed SUNY China 150, was also beneficial to Sichuan resident Rui Zhang, who is attending Farmingdale State College.
“This is a great time for me to learn finance here,” Zhang said sarcastically in a reference to the current economic crisis.
Mu said he is looking forward to aiding his community when his year of study is up.
“I’m going to help out anyway I can,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 173.