Get to know our Students at the Contemporary China Studies Program!

Jean-Yves from Canada, who joined the program in 2019, shares his experience as a neighborhood community volunteer during the COVID-19 outbreak. His story was also featured on local social media in Chinese.

Why I volunteered to work for my community in Beijing

It was only a couple of days ago that I completed 14 days of self-quarantine at home, a requirement for anyone returning to Beijing these days during the COVID-19 epidemic.

In my two weeks of isolation, the volunteers and community leaders were all very helpful and friendly to me.

One woman helped me carry my delivery of water jugs that I had bought online, which were too many for one person to carry alone, all the way up to my apartment on the 6th floor. One man showed real concern when I revealed that I was potentially going to run out of money before I would be allowed to go out. Another woman took her time to answer all of my questions and concerns. And finally, when I was allowed to walk out of the community, the volunteers at the gates all cheered me on, congratulated me, and told me that I deserved to go get that ice cream that I kept craving all week.

As I received my entry-and-exit permit from a community leader, an idea suddenly went through my mind, and I took the courage to ask if I could volunteer. Without skipping a beat, she said yes! I didn’t know if they were going to take me seriously, but sure enough they contacted me the next day to ask me for my availability.

When I showed up at the gates today, I was given the community volunteer vest, a red armband, a pair of gloves, a hand-held temperature scanner, and a warm home-made baozi to start my first shift. My job consisted of guarding the gate, taking temperatures, and asking for the entry-and-exit permit of anyone wanting to come through. I had a great time chatting and making friends with the other volunteers, and my neighbors coming in and out of the gates did not treat me any differently from anyone else. I really felt like I was a part of the community.

I volunteered for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to thank my community volunteers who were working so hard, and try to relieve them of some of the work. Secondly, I had a sense that I was going to help protect my home. I have been in China long enough to feel that it was now my home, even if temporary, and that it was a home in which I needed to do my part in protecting. Thirdly, I wanted to help because we are all just people having to deal with a situation that we never saw coming.

We are all in the same boat, and in times like these one must realize that there are more important things than national boundaries or cultural differences. This was a chance to embrace internationalist solidarity, and I am very happy that I decided to volunteer. I will do my part in keeping my community safe.

With that said, I would like to take the opportunity to say a few more words and give a special mention to some people that have been in my thoughts. I am thinking about the doctors and nurses on the front line, the patients, victims, and their families, the students preparing for their college entrance exams, and finally, the people in our communities and at Renmin University who are working hard to keep us safe and up to date with the latest information. We will all get through this together. 大家一起加油!