Amine Hammadi (left) and a fellow volunteer. (Photo: personal file)
“侬好(Hello).” “侬饭吃过了阀 (Have you had lunch)?” Amine Hammadi from Algeria greets her neighbors in her not-so-fluent Shanghainese. “Since I became a community volunteer, almost every neighbor I meet in the elevator recognizes me. They say, ‘Oh! You’re the foreigner who volunteers.’ I’m quickly becoming a ‘celebrity’.”
Hammadi, who lives in Yichuan, Putuo district, has signed up as a volunteer since the lockdown began in March. Sometimes he leaves at 6am for the morning shift and hands over the post to the night shift volunteers around 11pm on other days.
“I engaged in a variety of volunteer activities, including transporting supplies, delivering antigen test kits, maintaining order during nucleic acid tests, and recording information. I go wherever I need to,” he said in an interview with ECNS.
Hammadi went to Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in 2008. After earning his Ph.D. degree, the school hired him to teach finance. Shanghai has seen him go through different life milestones, from studying to working and starting his family. He no longer feels like a foreigner in Shanghai, when the community needed him, he volunteered to participate.
“I have lived in China for many years and Shanghai is my home now. Gratitude is an essential part of Chinese culture, and I have absorbed it over the years. There are many seniors in my community and volunteering is a great opportunity to help them. “, he said.
Amine Hammadi distributes antigen test kits. (Photo: personal file)
For Hammadi, volunteering was rewarding. There’s always someone ready to help when there’s a request in your building’s WeChat group. Messages such as: “Does anyone have enough starch?”, are answered warmly: “Yes I do, I’ll put it on my door for you, you can come get it”.
“Everyone probably feels that those who live in Chinese cities are very far away, but this difficult time has continually proven otherwise. I can feel the solidarity and love between neighbors. We all prioritize the elderly and children; so I often get fresh fruit from the neighbors as a gift for my two-year-old,” he added.
Hammadi speaks fluent Chinese, and this helped to smooth out his volunteering experience. “I’ve made wonderful friends, understand Chinese culture better, and volunteer without obstacles because of my Chinese proficiency.”
Even though Hammadi has to work, he still needs to prepare classes, teach classes, attend meetings and take care of his son; he said he would continue to volunteer independently. “I am a volunteer and will continue to be. I’m happy to join the community volunteer list.”