'Neighboring mothers' step in for mom stranded out of home

Lin Lixin
A Shanghai community rallies behind women's federation leader who "adopts" 12-year-old girl left isolated while her mother is quarantined.
Lin Lixin

Tang Xifeng, president of the women's federation of a Sheshan Town community in suburban Shanghai's Songjiang District, received an urgent message from an anxious mother, surnamed Peng, last week.

As a resident in Tang's community, Peng asked for help to take care of her 12-year-old daughter because she was quarantined in the Pudong New Area during the outbreak of this round of pandemic in the city.

The young girl lost her father in August 2021 to a serious disease.

In consideration of the girl being left at home alone, Tang decided to take over the role of the girl's parent.

She takes meals to her every day and buys food which are easily stored, including bread and instant noodles, during the community's quarantine period.

'Neighboring mothers' step in for mom stranded out of home
Ti Gong

Tang Xifeng (left) delivers necessities to Peng's daughter at home.

Before she visited her home each time, Tang would ask Peng to tell the girl in advance.

Tang kept in touch with Peng by sending photos and videos on WeChat to reassure her, telling her not to worry and showing in videos that her daughter was taking online classes seriously.

The young girl smiled shyly in the videos.

Tang also asked other women volunteers in the community for help to look after the girl and do housecleaning. They also tried to help the girl with any problems in her daily life.

Sometimes, the girl did the housework together with these "mothers."

Peng felt really grateful to the volunteers and kept saying "thank you" on WeChat.

Tang has actually been the girl's "neighboring mother" since July 2021 because Peng had to look after her then ill husband at the hospital. After the man died, Tang has always been worried about the family and regularly sends necessities to them.

She often invites them to participate in community activities, such as making mooncakes on Mid-Autumn Festival.

The "neighboring mother" project, launched by Shanghai Women's Federation in 2019, aims to gather a group of caring women to help children without guardianship, by providing one-on-one company and mental support.

After the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the project has played a more important role in caring for children in need.

These children are under 18 years old and temporarily without guardianship because their parents are quarantined, confirmed cases or suspected cases, or they are staff being engaged in pandemic prevention and control work.

"Neighboring mother" volunteers regularly contact the children they are helping and teach them the proper way to do pandemic prevention.

Although some "neighboring mothers" become busy as volunteers doing nucleic acid tests in communities, and are not often able to physically look after their "daughters," they are always concerned about them and check their physical and mental health through WeChat.

In fact, the project has been beneficial to all residents in need in communities during the pandemic.

Qi Jiaying, vice president of the women's federation in another Sheshan Town community, is a "neighboring daughter" always ready to help people in need.

'Neighboring mothers' step in for mom stranded out of home
Ti Gong

Qi Jiaying delivers medicines she has bought for an old man.

Qi had major lung surgery six months ago and should be taking good care of her body.

However, seeing this new outbreak of pandemic, she chose without hesitation to devote herself to helping the community residents.

Qi does everything she can – buying medicines for the elderly, delivering parcels, feeding pets for people who are quarantined, sending food to each home and helping with the cleaning and transportation of waste.

Other volunteers also help pregnant women about to give birth by arranging transport to hospitals and buying diapers and milk powder for new mothers.

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