Munyaradzi Gurure sprays disinfectant at the Yulin Railway Station as a volunteer (HUANG TAI)
The schools had just gone on vacation for the Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, and I was looking for something fun and entertaining to do for the holidays. I wanted to go to a concert with my friend and watch the fireworks, but in light of the coronavirus, most of the shows across the country were cancelled.
On January 10, one of my Chinese friends invited me to do a performance in Yulin, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, for the Spring Festival. That was around the time the COVID-19 epidemic was getting serious. Then he suggested that we volunteer at the Yulin Railway Station. We worked together with a few other local volunteers, doing various different assignments around the station.
There are thousands of people around China who travel every year to and from their hometowns during the Spring Festival. If the facilities and areas which people use the most are not sanitized properly, this could cause the virus to spread quickly. Since it was the early stage of the epidemic, some people may have been unaware of the severity of the situation, as well as how to essentially protect not only themselves but also others around them.
The main duties I had as a volunteer were to guide the passengers in and around the station, disinfect areas of the train station, especially the facilities that are frequently used by the passengers. Given that it was the early stage of the epidemic, we were tasked to guide the passengers to the area where they needed their temperatures to be checked. We used a large electronic pump to cover the larger areas and a smaller one for more compact areas in order to be thorough. A lot of the local people were very surprised to see a foreign national helping, and were supportive. After a few days we settled down in order to let the public health professionals do what they do best.
However, because I felt as if I should do more, my friend and I, together with a few others including a nurse and a policewoman, decided to write a song that would encourage and uplift the people of China and the world during the epidemic. One of our goals was to spread awareness concerning the epidemic. We wanted the song to captivate the audience as well as appreciate the brave people who are risking their lives to fight against the spread of the virus. We then spent the following few days recording the music video, which is now live online together with the song.
A lot of people have asked me why I volunteered, and my answer is: sometimes when you're given an opportunity to help others in any way you can, you should feel obligated. This pandemic affects everyone in one way or another, so I suggest following the many guidelines provided by the health system. Even simple tasks such as self-isolation, proper hygiene and wearing a mask are all ways in which everyone can help to prevent the spread of the virus.
Life in China is full of contrasts: at times the difference between the lifestyle and cultures can be both challenging and "frightening," and on the other hand, it can be spontaneously exciting. You experience many different situations that you probably would not have imagined. The coronavirus epidemic is one of those situations. Amidst all the tension brought by the epidemic, I was very privileged to have had the opportunity to actively lend a hand. These new experiences are the ones that help you understand the world you live in, and more specifically help you keep your head above water in the environment that you live in.
(The author is a Zimbabwean student living in China)
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