Yu Haixin (center) is photographed with students at a summer camp she helped organize in Zundao township after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan province. (CHINA DAILY)
Like many Chinese people, Yu Haixin from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, found herself restless after a magnitude 8 earthquake hit Wenchuan, Sichuan province, on May 12, 2008.
As she watched the media reports, she noticed that many of the soldiers transporting disaster-relief materials to mountain-encompassed areas were wearing simple rubber-soled shoes, so it occurred to her that she should go to Sichuan and offer assistance.
"As an outdoor enthusiast, I have good, high-topped hiking boots. So, instead of using them to hike, why not go to transport relief materials or help in some other way?" she asked herself.
Back then, Yu never imagined that she would become a civilian rescuer. However, the 46-year-old has now devoted herself to voluntary rescue missions for 15 years, making full use of any time she can spare from her work as a lawyer.
Yu was just one of about 100 members of a mountaineering club in Shenzhen who traveled to Wenchuan. In fact, so many members wanted to go that they had to sign up and then leave in batches, she said.
It was June by the time Yu's turn came. By then, sufficient disaster-relief materials had been transported to Zundao, the township in which she was based, but some remote parts of the area had yet to receive sufficient supplies.
While helping to transport supplies to isolated locations by bicycle, Yu and her colleagues found that many children were playing in the rubble because they had no schools to attend.
Even though there were no human bodies under the rubble, some dead animals were buried, posing a high risk of disease, she said.
The volunteers proposed organizing summer camps for children in the township's 10 villages. The suggestion was warmly welcomed by village committees and parents.
They introduced a range of programs in different villages, including singing, outdoor fitness training and Chinese and English courses, Yu said.
As the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games were approaching, Yu designed related classes. In addition to teaching the children to recognize logos and understand the rules for various events, she discussed China's performance in the events and Chinese athletes who had previously won medals.
Yu visited the quake-hit area twice, staying for two weeks on her first trip and about a month on her second.
Back in Shenzhen, she couldn't stop devoting herself to rescue operations in the city and farther afield.
Her mountaineering club founded a mountain rescue team after the Wenchuan earthquake, which was registered as the Shenzhen Rescue Volunteers Federation in late 2013.
In the first few years, when she wasn't overburdened with work, Yu spent about one-third of her time with the team, taking part in rescue operations, along with team building and training exercises.
For example, she participated in rescue operations after the magnitude 6.5 earthquake in Ludian, Yunnan province, in 2014, and worked on the front lines after devastating floods hit Hebei province in 2016 and Henan province in 2021.
She is now a partner in a law firm, so she finds it increasingly difficult to maintain a balance between taking part in rescue operations and working in the office.
During the 10 days she spent in Henan, for example, she had to spend at least 30 minutes every day doing legal work after wrapping up her rescue efforts at 2 or 3 am.
What is gratifying for Yu, who is single, is that her mother is very supportive of her rescue work.
"She knows I am helping other people. Every time I return from a disaster-relief operation and share my experiences with her, she is very happy," she said.
After a devastating temblor hit Turkiye and Syria in February, Yu was just as restless as she had been after the Wenchuan quake. This time, though, she was too busy at work to go and offer help.
However, when discussing participation in relief work after a major disaster, she said, "As long as I have time, I will go".