Smiling Clovers gear up for biggest-ever role

A volunteer group in a Qingpu District town will be doing its part to make the Import Expo a success.

With the first China International Import Expo to be held on their doorstep in Qingpu District, volunteers in Xujing Town are giving their all.

There are about 20,000 registered volunteers in Xujing. They call themselves “Smiling Clovers,” taking their name from the clover-leaf shaped National Exhibition and Conference Center that will host the expo in November.

The center held its first exhibition in 2014, and since then the Smiling Clovers have served at 25 major events there. The November expo is the biggest event in Shanghai since the 2010 World Expo and the biggest job to date for the Clovers.

So far, they have taken part in an emergency evacuation drill and have have gone into the streets to ensure road safety and to pick up litter.

Wang Li, 34, a residents’ committee official, has been a Smiling Clover since 2016. She volunteers two or three times every month.

When Wang guiding Metro passengers to bus stops, works 90-minute stints during morning and evening rush hours.

With many visitors and bus stops relocated due to construction work around the exhibition center, Wang’s work can be exhausting, especially on hot days. In other roles, volunteers can work up to eight or 10 hours a day.

“Our mission is to stick to our assigned post and do our job,” Wang said.

Wang said her work as a volunteer influences her life when she’s not wearing the blue vest of the Clovers.

“I often find myself often reminding people to not park their cars in the wrong place or telling people not to throw things out of their car windows,” she said.

Another Smiler, Wan Yifeng, 28, is a town official who thinks the group’s efforts really do make a difference.

“As a resident, I see that fewer pedestrians and scooter riders are ignoring traffic rules,” he said. “That’s largely down to the volunteers.”

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Wang and Wan point the way for passengers coming out of the metro station of East Xujing.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Wang and Wan at a bus station outside the National Exhibition and Convention Center helping people find directions.

More than 1,000 Smiling Clovers worked at the annual Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition when it was held at the center. They helped provide information and served as guides to the million visitors.

The Xujing Town Volunteer Service Center, which oversees the activities of the volunteers, has a set of regulations to ensure that the volunteers work effectively.

Supervisors periodically check volunteers at their posts. If they spot problems, corrective advice is given.

The supervisors and the volunteers are in the same group on WeChat, the popular Chinese instant messaging platform, so that they can easily exchange information. Volunteers are encouraged to ask questions about their jobs and supervisors are responsible for answering them.

When volunteers are assigned to large exhibitions, supervisors must provide them detailed information about their responsibilities, hours of duty and transportation and parking.

To safeguard the well-being of volunteers, the organization also has rules that preclude them from working long hours in hot or extreme weather and that require meals and transportation be provided during large events.

As with all the 3.5 million registered volunteers in Shanghai, Smiling Clovers can exchange their service hours for drinks and snacks through a “time bank.”

The volunteer service center said dozens of foreign students from the Shanghai National Accounting Institute, which is located in the town, have signed up to join the volunteer group at the Import Expo.

The foreign volunteers are starting their training now.

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