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Foreigners play their part in Shanghai’s epidemic prevention

 Expat volunteers have been active in helping the city overcome the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Updated: March 13, 2020

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 organising 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 per cent 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 per cent of the respondents agreed with the community-management measures and 89.2 per cent 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 organises 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 neighbourhood. This is an opportunity for them to get involved in issues that matter to their lives here.”

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