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'River of stars' shines amid HK outbreak

China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-02 09:03
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Fu Shun-fang (right), a volunteer in Hong Kong, brings pandemic prevention supplies to the home of a community resident on Saturday. XINHUA

HONG KONG-Reading the popup message on his cellphone, stating that Hong Kong had recorded a daily new high of 140 COVID-19 cases, Joseph Chan was astonished and alarmed. It was the evening of Jan 23, a week before the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Chan remembered the city had only reported 26 cases the previous day, and preparations were in full swing to resume the much-anticipated quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the mainland.

"I was instantly awake and all my fatigue was gone," says Chan, who has been fighting the pandemic on and off for more than two years as a leader of two local volunteer groups. They have helped over 1,000 households in need, including many elderly empty nesters.

Within a month, the daily case numbers reached levels that were hard to imagine for the 7.5 million residents-Hong Kong had been kept relatively virus-free since the pandemic began. On Tuesday, the daily caseload surpassed 11,270.

Battle-hardened, yet baffled, by the rapid rise of the fifth wave of infections, the 26-year-old decided to continue his volunteer services and try to reach the vulnerable.

"On the first day of the Lunar New Year, I was asked by one of the team members if our volunteer work would continue amid such a serious wave of the pandemic. I thought about it for a while and said, 'Yes, but we have to protect ourselves and our volunteer work cannot stop,'" Chan recalls.

The team member, Fu Shun-fang, a housewife, promptly replied: "You have my support."

This week, they visited elderly care centers to bring them pandemic prevention supplies amid chilly winter rain. While temperatures plummeted below 10 C, Chan and Fu, wearing protective suits and two layers of masks, could not help sweating as they unloaded cartons from the vehicle.

"While we are scared about this wave of the pandemic, the more severe it becomes, the more aware we are that there are still many people in the community who are in need of help right now," Fu says. "We are suppliers, troubleshooters, and nerve-soothers."

Chan says, at the beginning, he had worries that his team members would be scared and that no one would want to keep coming out to volunteer amid the raging pandemic.

But when he sent tasks to the volunteer chat group, the enthusiasm of the volunteers swept away his concerns-helping hands always outnumber the needs of each assignment.

Some volunteers, who could not go to the front line to deliver supplies, help establish channels to purchase traditional Chinese medicine, such as Lianhua Qingwen capsules, and rapid test kits.

"At this critical moment, medical personnel are doing their best to fight the pandemic, and our efforts can serve as reinforcement against the pandemic," Fu says. "We pool our strengths to guard our loved ones and our home."

Volunteers assume roles as errand boys, psychotherapists, and maintenance workers, as home quarantine and social-distancing measures have created manpower bottlenecks for the distribution of supplies and community disinfection.

As the volunteer work moves on in an orderly manner, there are a greater number of "new faces" in the team. "Some of the new volunteers are people we have helped before, while some approached us via our friends," Chan says.

The volunteer team is also receiving increasing support from all walks of life. More organizations and residents have approached Chan's volunteer team, which has received donations of some 3,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, 5,000 masks, and 10,000 rapid test kits.

"The power of one person is small, but the 'flashes of light' of countless ordinary people against the pandemic can converge into a 'river of stars' that outshines the gloom of the pandemic," Chan says.



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