Foreigners Are Fighting the Virus by Helping Others Stay Safe!

Source: China Daily

Twelve foreign residents in Shanghai have joined a volunteer team to help with the city's COVID-19 prevention and control.

Located in Minhang district, the team was established on Feb 10 by the Jinfeng International Community Development Association, which aims to promote the development of Huacao town and the Jinfeng International Community by organizing themed activities and public welfare events.

Pakistani Amir Shafiq Khan joined the team to give back.

"It's easy to run away to another country, but I felt that my family and I should contribute to China in this difficult time as it has always offered opportunities to us," says Khan, who has lived in China since 1999.

"I want to help the community with my experience and understanding of both foreigners' needs and Chinese culture."

One of the first things that Khan did was to provide vital information to the foreigners in his community as well as correct misunderstandings or falsehoods being spread online about the epidemic.

"Many foreigners don't know the real situation and how well China has been handling the outbreak. For example, there's no shortage of food or supplies and companies have not raised the prices of their products," says Khan, who runs a factory in Shanghai.

In his role, Khan also helps to explain the city's rules and regulations to other foreigners in the community as well as share their feedback with the government. The 50-year-old, who donated 500 masks to the community in Huacao town last month, has even been volunteering as a guard to measure the temperatures of residents in the community.

"My wife and I also reach out to some of our local friends who protect the community from the epidemic, such as the cleaners, guards and local volunteers at the front lines. We spend time with them to express our gratitude for their efforts," he says.

While local volunteers have their strengths in helping prevent the spread of the virus, foreign volunteers are also essential as they better understand the needs and culture of the foreign community, Khan says.

According to the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, there are around 215,000 foreigners working in Shanghai as of 2019, accounting for nearly 24 percent of the total on the Chinese mainland.

In order to find out the needs of foreigners in the city during this period, the Jinfeng International Community conducted a survey involving 102 foreigners from 28 countries and regions, including the United States, Germany, Canada and France. All of the respondents live in the community and 78 are in China during the outbreak.

Over 82 percent of the respondents agreed with the community-management measures and 89.2 percent believe that the measures taken by the local government have been very effective in preventing and controlling the epidemic.

The majority of respondents say that they hope to get more information, such as how the fight against the outbreak is progressing, the number of people infected and treated, and updates on the lifting of traffic restrictions, through English platforms or media.

Italian volunteer Ellen Loasby, 53, has lived in Shanghai for 12 years.

As she is fluent in Chinese, Loasby helps to find foreign volunteers to join the team and organizes activities. She also shares her volunteering experience through social media to encourage others to join the effort.

"Within the Jinfeng International Community Development Association, volunteer expats know very well how the international community works and are able to best represent their interests and needs. They will bring different perspectives to the situation, and these perspectives, combined with local ones, can generate creative ideas for solutions," Loasby says.

"Our overall goal is to build a bridge between the local and expat communities and to give expats a voice in their neighborhood. This is an opportunity for them to get involved in issues that matter to their lives here."

Iranian Businessman Joins Control Effiorts

Hamid Dehghani, an Iranian businessman, has lived in the city of Yiwu, a major commodity hub in East China's Zhejiang province, for around 17 years. Now he is fighting against the novel coronavirus in a local community.

After the outbreak started, the 55-year-old Iranian volunteered to join in the epidemic prevention and control team of the Jimingshan community in Yiwu.

"The community is one with the most foreign residents in Yiwu. Known as an 'international residential community', there are over 25,000 in the migrant population, among them, more than 1,400 traders from more than 70 countries," says He Wenjun, an official of the Jimingshan community.

Therefore, Hamid, who can speak six languages, has been playing an important role in the fight against the deadly virus. Since the epidemic spread across the world and more foreigners came back to Yiwu as the international trade market reopened in mid-February, Hamid is getting busier.

Learning that one couple had recently returned to the community from abroad, Hamid visited them, alongside community officials and medical workers.

"Hello, I'm a community volunteer. These are masks and disinfectant," Hamid said to the Israeli man and gave him a bag of epidemic prevention materials provided by the community.

They checked his identity information and handed over two thermometers, asking him and his wife to report their body temperatures twice a day.

During the conversation, a woman was heading towards the apartment with two pet dogs. The man explained that it was his wife, who just walked their dogs. She had traveled to Italy and flown to Shanghai on Feb 25. She returned to the community two days later but was required to stay at home for a 14-day self-quarantine.

"For the sake of everyone's safety, you are supposed to stay at home for four more days. Please don't go out during this period," Hamid explained to the couple very patiently.

On Feb 19, a father and a daughter from Seoul, the Republic of Korea, returned to Yiwu. Hamid and community workers also visited the two of them after a 14-day quarantine. They reminded them that besides monitoring their health, they were encouraged to reduce physical contact with other Korean friends who came back to China for the time being.

He also told them that the local government would arrange for transportation and designated hotels for medical observation for people from the ROK, and he wanted the father and daughter to spread the information among their Korean circle of friends.

Apart from visiting homes, Hamid also purchases things, sends daily necessities, publicizes epidemic prevention and control information and participates in night patrols.

In Jimingshan community, there are a total of 39 foreign volunteers who have taken part in epidemic prevention and control duties. Hamid hopes that more foreigners join the team after they are released from medical quarantine.

Leaving the business to his Chinese wife, Hamid spends most of his time helping others in the community, but he is also worried about the epidemic situation in his own country.

He said he bears the responsibility to tell his Iranian compatriots about his experience in China. "I hope the anti-epidemic experience in China can help my country pull through," Hamid says.

"The virus knows no borders. I'm just offering a little help within my capabilities," he adds.

Want to see how else foreigners are helping?

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  • Foreign Students Launch Donation Campaign to Fight the Virus!