A day in the life of a community volunteer

Li Fei Ma Xuefeng Zhong Youyang
Taking care of residents and ensuring neighborhood safety are no easy tasks, as Shanghai Daily reporters discover while serving in one Jing'an District community.
Li Fei Ma Xuefeng Zhong Youyang

Shanghai experienced a cold wave last week, with temperatures falling to zero degree Celsius. Yet one neighborhood committee member told us that her down jacket was still drenched with sweat on the coldest day.

To find out what the daily work of the neighborhood committee is like, we visited the Siming Neighborhood where she works in Jing’an District and served as volunteered for one day.

Shot by Ma Xuefeng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Andy Boreham.

Siming is one of the most elegant old neighborhoods in Shanghai. Its 1930s Spanish-style villas are home to about 1,500 families and  many are aged over 60. As a historic area, there are also lots of expats living in this neighborhood.

A day in the life of a community volunteer

Siming Villa

Our job was to help neighborhood staff issue a special pass to residents.

To maintain the ongoing battle against the novel coronavirus, strict new rules related to Shanghai's 13,000 residential communities were released by the city's civil affairs authorities recently.

These include ramping up registration of visitors, staffing all entries, mandatory temperature checks and home quarantine for those who come back to Shanghai from key infected areas and show no symptoms of COVID-19.

The new rules present a great challenge to the neighborhood committee.

Before work, we got our volunteers’ uniforms from the committee, including an orange vest and a cap.

At 8:30am, a security guard of the neighborhood used a loudspeaker to inform residents to pick up their passes at designated locations.

Our work started: keeping the residents in a queue, making sure everyone wears a mask correctly, keeping no more than two persons in the room at the same time.

Special neighborhood passes are issued by neighborhood committees or the property companies, depending on the neighborhood.

A day in the life of a community volunteer

The special pass for Siming Neighborhood

The pass for Siming Neighborhood is a green-and-white one. There is also a temporary pass for relatives who take care of elderly family.

Two passes are available for households with three or more persons. Residents who have already returned to work can apply for an extra pass with their company’s certificate.

“We are worried that residents will accidentally lose or dirty the pass, so we decide to purchase a batch of plastic card covers and hanging ropes, which are also convenient for the elderly,” said Zhang Haiyan, head of the neighborhood committee.

There was a family from Spain in queue. For expats, staff needed to check their passports, then contacted the police to confirm their latest entry date. This would take some time, and we needed to deliver the passes to their home after confirmation.

Most residents can pick up their passes at the office, but for the elderly we needed to send the passes to their homes. This was really hard work. In two hours, we walked more than 8,700 steps, yet delivered to less than 60 households.

As a historic neighborhood, Siming has many home hostels inside.

Since travelers are not allowed to stay in the neighborhood during this special period, staff needed to check every home hostel and confirm that no tourists were there. As volunteers, we helped them put notices on every door of these hostels. Neighbors are also involved and will report the arrival of any travelers.

After half a day’s work, we already had trouble breathing with my mask, but the staff of the Siming Neighborhood committee work at least 12 hours during this special period, from 8:30am to 8:30pm, sometimes even later.

During our volunteer time there, the telephone of the neighborhood committee’s office was ringing all the time.

“Many old people call to ask about the epidemic, and we also help them with psychological counseling,” Zhang told us.

“One resident called us every 15 minutes, saying she was afraid of the epidemic and needed help. Our staff came to her home, talked to her, told her the preventive measures and calmed her down,” she explained.

The second round of registration for masks started on that day, and staff reminded everyone they met to do the registration.

For those under home quarantine, community volunteers delivered food to them and took money via WeChat, while cleaners removed their garbage every day.

The neighbors are always kind to help each other: “A resident translated the preventive measures of the epidemic into English, German, Korean, Japanese and Thai,” Zhang said.

A day in the life of a community volunteer

A resident translates the preventive measures of the epidemic into five languages: English, German, Korean, Japanese and Thai.

Also on that day, two residents of the neighborhood came to donate masks and gloves. They refused to leave their names.

“There are lots of elders in our neighborhood, some of them didn’t have masks. This is all I can buy, please give the masks to the elders as soon as possible,” said a man who donated 200 masks.

“I am the owner of a dental clinic. My staff dormitory is in this community, and I have some disposable gloves. I hope these will help,” the other man said.

But for committee staff, some of them only have very thin single-layer masks.

They really did a great work, doing their best to protect everyone.

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