YINXIU, China -- It is testimony to how much China has changed in the last decade that so many people have the time and the wherewithal — not to mention the access to information — to volunteer in the earthquake relief effort. A veritable army of students, retirees, groups of office workers and others from around the country are helping with everything from rubble removal to medical care in the wake of the devastating May 12 earthquake.
Among the many volunteers working in this hard-hit town, He Riguang stands out. The 25-year old computer programmer rode his bicycle from the Chinese city of Hangzhou, about 1,000 miles east of here.
When we met He, he was in the rubble at the quake's epicenter, one of just a handful of people helping residents salvage belongings from their crumbled homes. On this day, He was busy helping some locals load furniture onto a small tractor-trailer.
He could easily be mistaken as a survivor -- coated in dust, his long, matted hair sticking out from under his bicycle helmet, which he was now using as a hard hat.
He said he had ridden his bicycle last year through Yingxiu and westward into Tibet. Like many people who have visited this mountain region, He was charmed by its natural beauty and the hospitality of its people. He was on a second excursion to the region when the quake struck. When he heard the news of the quake, it meant one thing — ride faster.
"I came immediately to help," He said. Since his arrival just a few days after the quake, He had been working alongside rescuers and survivors for about 10 days.