Community minded expats volunteer unpaid help in China

Published:  7 Dec at 6 PM
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Volunteering to be of use in their local communities is the latest trend amongst long-stay expats in China’s mega-cities.

Following the tradition of senior Chinese citizens’ unpaid community patrolling, expats in several Chinese cities are offering their services as well. Elderly Chinese can be seen wearing their distinctive red armbands in every mainland Chinese town and city, all keeping their eyes open for illegal activity in their local communities.

Known as ‘aunties in armbands’ the actions of these caring locals in the city of Chengdu are now being supplemented by equally-caring long-stay expats who’ve volunteered to play their parts. Eight young expatriates living in the city are now out on the streets wearing the same armbands and keeping the expat community in order.

The local Tong Zi Lin community is one of the largest expat areas in the entire city, and the expat volunteers have already been featured in local Chinese media. Coming from diverse countries including the US, Pakistan and New Zealand, the volunteers’ mission is mostly to help with the needs of the area’s over 2,000 foreign residents, most of whom teach in international schools or work for international companies. Chinese residents are often surprised to see expats wearing the famous red armbands, but locals are happy that expatriates want to help the community.

Meanwhile, residents in Hunan province’s Zhuzhou city were recently astonished to see a young foreign woman volunteering as a traffic warden. The 21 year-old British expat was taken on by the local authority mostly to ensure pedestrians don’t risk accidents by jaywalking amongst the city’s chaotic traffic. Her Chinese language skills, she says, aren’t all they could be but memorising key phrases helps her volunteer effectively. Local Chinese residents love her, and she loves her input into her chosen city.

In Southwest China’s Guiyang city there’s another dedicated expat volunteer helping to keep road safety as a priority. This university professor spends his spare time directing traffic at one of the city’s most dangerous intersections, mostly by shouting ‘get out of the way'! A video of his antics has gone viral and, although some locals aren't thrilled by his actions, his students love him for his volunteering as well as his humour and passion in class.
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