Volunteer services earn Jin'an acclaim as one of China's "most beautiful communities"

Zheng Jinxing and his friends conduct nightly patrols along the roads of Jin'an community in the coastal city of Xiamen in east China's Fujian Province.

Zheng Jinxing, 54, and his friends conduct nightly patrols along the roads of Jin'an community in the coastal city of Xiamen in east China's Fujian Province.

In 2013, when Zheng began the patrols, burglaries were often reported within the community.

"Thieves are skillful, they can open a door with a plastic card. Some of the locks in our community are inadequate, so we often encourage residents to change their locks," he said.

Zheng and his team of volunteers never take a night off, their patrol takes place from 8pm to 10pm, even during a typhoon or while their neighbors celebrate the lunar new year. They see it as their duty to the community, which is made up of mainly low and middle-income families.

"If we see car lights on or doors unlocked, we let the owners know. We return lost bags, mobile phones and drivers' licenses or hand them over to the police," he said.

As a sanitation worker, Zheng's day begins at 3am. When he finished work, he returns to the community to guide traffic. After dinner, he goes out to patrol.

But when he moved to the community in 2009, Zheng was known as a "troublemaker."

"I always got drunk and got into fights, nothing in the community was good in my eyes," he recalled. "The head of the committee said I should change my behavior. It took time, but eventually I was able to change."

Zheng now regarded as a star among the district’s 2,562 registered volunteers.

Covering an area of 310,000 square meters, Jin'an is Xiamen's largest government-built community for low-income families. The comprehensive volunteer system earned it an award as one of China's " most beautiful communities" last year.

In the morning, a group of red-coated grandmas collect garbage in the community and teach the benefits of sorting recyclables.

During the day, basketball, choir and Taichi clubs - all organized by volunteers - fill Jin'an with laughter and song.

The residents have free access to almost any service they require from water and electricity maintenance, psychological and legal counseling, to medical treatment and translation services, as part of the voluntary services within the community.

They can even request a specific service by posting their needs online or leaving a message in a suggestion box. If the request is reasonable, the residential community committee will check the volunteer schedule and arrange for someone with the relevant professional knowledge to assist.

To meet the needs of the more than 2,000 elderly residents who live alone or have mobility issues, a group of middle-aged residents formed the "Sunset Red" team. They regularly visit and chat with those in need, read them newspapers, clean their homes or help them buy groceries.

Chen Liming, director of the Jin'an residential community committee, said all of the community's meeting rooms are available free of charge for activities.

"On weekdays, most of our volunteers are middle-aged and elderly people, while younger people often serve the community at night and on weekends," Chen said. "We have volunteers in every building. They collect the residents' suggestions to help us evaluate our services on a regular basis."

The volunteers help resolve disputes often seen in other communities such as parking issues and noise complaints.

Wu Xiudan, 63, is a retired judge. She enjoys dancing with her friends in the evenings but knows the younger generation dislike the loud music.

"Previously, young people often called the police saying the music was disruptive. But if we turned down our music, dancers at the back couldn't hear it, causing problems for us," she recalled.

Wu volunteered to become a mediator between the different groups within the community.

"The community committee decided to set up a surround sound system to direct the music inwards and the problem was resolved," she said.

Wu later opened a free legal consultancy service, using her experience to settle disputes within the community.

For Wu, Jin'an is a model community as everyone contributes and benefits.

"We are all volunteers as well as beneficiaries, we live in harmony within this community," she said.

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