Home Opinion Featured Articles Everyday heroes: Thousands of volunteers step to the fore in coronavirus fight

Everyday heroes: Thousands of volunteers step to the fore in coronavirus fight

Community workers and volunteers use a speaker to publicize the information about prevention and control of the novel coronavirus at a street near the Yellow Crane Pavilion in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)
Community workers and volunteers use a speaker to publicize the information about prevention and control of the novel coronavirus at a street near the Yellow Crane Pavilion in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

As doctors are racing against the time to save patients infected with COVID-19, everyday heroes from all walks of life also step up to play supporting roles in battling against the epidemic in Wuhan, the center of the epidemic.

From medical aid, food and goods assistance and psychological support to transport and community services, thousands of volunteers respond quickly and gingerly after the megacity was locked down to curb the spread of the deadly virus.


On Feb. 3, the Communist Youth League of Wuhan issued the first public notice online to recruit volunteers, and over 7,000 people had signed up in less than 12 hours after the announcement.

Until now, the organization has selected and trained 19,155 people to serve as deliverymen, drivers, coordinators and community workers in grocery stores, neighborhoods, designated hospitals and makeshift hospitals to receive infected patients.

Six counseling hotlines have been set up to allow 61 professionally trained psychological consultants to help residents 24 hours a day and 74 volunteers of legal practitioners take turns to answer epidemic-related inquiries online.

On Feb. 23, another 10,000 people applied for volunteer posts within 10 hours following the city’s new recruitment to ensure efficient deliveries of emergency supplies and daily necessities to residents. Over 24,000 volunteers out of the total 70,000 applicants have been recruited to meet the delivery needs of neighborhoods in the city.

Some of the volunteers have played different roles in their anti-epidemic efforts. Yang Xue, in her 20s, has driven over 800 doctors to work and back home along with her friends. They have also transported over 500 tonnes of goods for communities.

As the pressure on transport surges, donors of goods and medical supplies also hit the road to ensure timely delivery of the resources to destinations in Wuhan.

After over 30 hours of driving, a fleet of six passenger buses sponsored by a grassroots organization had sent 30 tonnes of fresh fruits and 10 tonnes of eggs to two major makeshift hospitals in Wuhan. “The food is a little token of our regard for patients as we stand together with them in fighting the disease,” said Zhao Pengfei, one of the drivers.

To facilitate the customs clearance of overseas assistance, over 300 college students, medical workers and professional translators teamed up to translate documents and notices in a dozen foreign languages such as English, Japanese, Korean, Russian, German, French, Italian and Vietnamese. They also actively participate in coordinating overseas donations, as well as facilitating transport services.

Haroon Nomaan, a Pakistan engineer working for Lenovo in Wuhan, also volunteered to help coordinate overseas projects and translate custom clearance documents in English and Urdu in a team of 83. “I hope that this crisis will be over soon, and as long as I’m needed, I’m more than happy to do this, whatever the time,” he said.

Meanwhile, following a nationwide appeal of plasma donation among cured patients, Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, a major designated hospital, has seen a rising number of cured patients to donate their plasma for the treatment of infected patients in critical condition.


China has seen a growing number of volunteers over the past decades along with rapid economic and social development. In Wuhan alone, the city has 1.5 million registered volunteers, or 14 percent of its permanent population, official statistics show.

A large number of professional social workers have also acted quickly to help people in need amid the epidemic, with systematic practices of helping people obtain tangible services, undertaking counseling and psychotherapy with individuals and families and supporting communities to provide and improve health services.

Yu Zhihong, a social work professor from Wuhan University, has mobilized a team of professional social workers among her colleagues, students and counterparts and majors of social work across the city. The number of her community-based “Good Companions Response Team” has grown to 200 with a talent pool of up to 500.

“The value of social workers lies in the ability to continuously serve more people in a short time,” Yu said.

For now, it is a more efficient operation mode to set up a targeted and sustained service system that links social workers with psychological and medical resources and “the services can be provided to more residents at the community level,” she added.

To minimize the risk of cross-infection, the team adopts a methodology of teaming up five workers in a group to coordinate and provide services using social media platforms. A group consists of two social workers based in communities, hospitals and designated zones for isolated patients and three volunteers offering logistics, medical and phycological assistance online.

Yu also turned to the China Association for Social Work Education to appeal to nationwide professionals. More experts and social work supervisors from Heilongjiang, Shanghai and Guangzhou have beefed up the team.

However, Yu said several hospitals declined their offer at the very beginning as doctors are fully occupied looking after patients rather than taking time to learn about their intentions. However, necessary guidance and consulting are in great demand among patients, and relative efforts are needed in the management and coordination of hospitals, Yu said.

The team, thus, found another way to carry out their plans. With the approval of the administration office of hospitals, social workers introduced a QR code to invite patients into a social media group. Workers also drafted a map and completed the guidance of the hospital for newly accepted patients. Special needs brought up by patients are also handled carefully by Yu’s team.

The professional training of social workers, oriented to help people in need, ranges from direct providing of services and the comprehensive coordination of social resources to participating in the formation or change of social policy, Yu said.

Yu’s team expects to promote a social work pattern that answers the call for social, life and psychological assistance. “As a supplementary effort to support the government who gives priorities to the most significant issues, social work takes care of the needs of more individuals,” Yu said. “Most importantly, we attach great importance to humanistic care.”

Yu’s team is also working on social work manuals in Korean and Japanese and is expected to carry out services to overseas Chinese. Enditem

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