Shenzhen is best known for being home to a host of high-profile technology companies such as Huawei, BYD and DJI. Less known are the everyday heroes whose heartwarming stories have made the city a caring community.
Zhang Yingying is among 68 people from around the country who won the title of national role model last week. A winner in the category of helping others, Zhang has helped more than 2,700 people with disabilities to find employment.
Zhang, who has been wheelchair-bound after suffering from polio when she was a child, has founded four nonprofit organizations and two enterprises since 2011, which are all aimed at helping physically challenged people start their own businesses and find jobs.
Over the years, five other Shenzhen residents have been honored as national role models. They include Cong Fei, a singer who, before his death in 2006, had performed at more than 300 charity concerts, volunteered for more than 3,600 hours, and donated more than 3 million yuan (US$468,900) to help 183 poverty-stricken children.
The list also includes Chen Ruhao and Wu Qingqin, a couple who for more than 24 years have been caring for their comatose son, a police officer who was severely injured while trying to apprehend robbers fleeing on their motorcycle in 1997.
Zhang's passion for charity was ignited when she witnessed Shenzhen's flourishing volunteerism. Shortly after arriving in Shenzhen in 2011 after graduation, she was moved by many people who had done whatever they could to help those in need and registered herself as a volunteer, according to Shenzhen Special Zone Daily. Shenzhen is known as "a city of volunteers" for the active volunteerism among its residents. According to official statistics, 2.08 million people in Shenzhen had registered as volunteers by the end of 2020.
Almost 562 volunteer stations provide regular services every day, according to the Shenzhen Volunteers Association. The volunteers are seen lending a helping hand in hospitals, government service halls, libraries, bookstores and U Stations across the city.
Many expatriates have also been actively volunteering. Eight expatriates are the founding members of the 336-strong international volunteer team in Zhancheng Community in Fuhai Subdistrict in Bao'an District. The international volunteer team in Zhaoshang Subdistrict, Nanshan District, has 216 registered volunteers, including 86 expatriates from 38 countries.
Hundreds of international volunteers had assisted 5,096 expatriates in receiving vaccinations by June 24 this year, according to Gao Dawei, secretary of the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the Communist Youth League of China.
While the national role models inspire more people to follow their examples, there are much larger numbers of less-known ordinary folks who are everyday heroes. In times of crisis and emergency, they play a vital role in helping the city weather the storms.
When sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks occurred in Shenzhen earlier this year and last year, there were volunteers and community workers who each accumulated more than 30,000 steps on their apps a day as they went from home to home to help arrange quarantine and deliver daily necessities to those isolated at home. Numerous medical workers raced against time to do testing and treat patients, donning personal protective equipment (PPE) that makes having a drink or going to the washroom a luxury. In Zhaoshang, Shekou and Yuehai subdistricts in Nanshan, more than 300 expatriate volunteers gave a helping hand in testing and vaccinations for foreigners. These unsung heroes made the city's success in containing the virus possible.
At the government level, Shenzhen, as a city that has benefited immensely from reform and opening up, has put forth great effort to help less developed regions. Between 1990 and 2020, Shenzhen's poverty-alleviation projects lifted 1.94 million people in 105 counties (districts) in 17 provinces and autonomous regions out of poverty. Shenzhen's aid campaign, which is still ongoing, also includes funding the construction of schools, hospitals and infrastructure projects as well as sending officials and teachers to those regions.
By Dec. 3, 2020, the Shenzhen city government had spent 44.5 billion yuan to aid 54 counties in nine provinces and autonomous regions, while companies and individuals had donated 76 billion yuan, according to official statistics.
Those everyday heroes complement the government-led charity efforts to make Shenzhen a caring city and a warm community, moving far beyond being just a place with cold, lifeless technology.
(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)