Amine Hammadi(left) and a fellow volunteer. (Photo provided by Amine Hammadi)
By Gao Zhimiao，Labake Ishola
(ECNS) SHANGHAI – “侬好(Hello).” “侬饭吃过了阀 (Had lunch yet) ?” Amine Hammadi, from Algeria, greeted his neighbors with his not-so-fluent Shanghainese. ”Since becoming a community volunteer, almost every neighbor I meet in the elevator recognizes me. They go,‘Oh! You’re the foreigner who volunteers.’ I am fast becoming a ‘celebrity’.”
Hammadi, who lives in Yichuan Road, Putuo District, signed up as a volunteer since the lockdown began in March. He sometimes steps out as early as 6 am for the morning shift and handover to night shifts volunteers around 11 pm on other days.
“I’ve engaged in diverse volunteering activities, including carrying supplies, handing out antigen testing kits, maintaining order during nucleic acid tests, and registering information. I go wherever I’ m needed.” He said in an exclusive interview with ECNS.
Hammadi came to study at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in 2008. After earning his Ph.D. degree, the school retained him to teach finance. Shanghai has seen him cross different life milestones, from studying to working to starting his family. He no longer feels like a foreigner in Shanghai, so he boldly stepped forward when his community needed him.
“I’ve lived in China for many years, and Shanghai is my home now. Gratitude is an essential part of Chinese culture, and I have absorbed that over the years. There are many old people in my community, and volunteering, which I find very interesting, is a great opportunity to help them.” He said.
For Hammadi, volunteering has been self-rewarding. Someone is always happy to lend a hand whenever there’s any request on their building’s WeChat group. Messages like: ”Does anyone have some starch to spare? Yes, I do. I will put it at the door for you, you can come to pick it up” make him feel the warmth of his community.
“Everyone probably feels those living in Chinese cities are very detached, but this trying time has continuously proved otherwise. I can feel the solidarity and love between neighbors. We all prioritize the elderly and children; hence I often get fresh fruits from neighbors as a gift for my two-year-old.” He added.
Hammadi speaks Chinese fluently, and this has helped smoothen his volunteering experience. “I have made wonderful friends, better understand the Chinese culture and volunteer without hurdles because of my Chinese proficiency.”
Even though Hammadi still has work, he needs to prepare lessons, take classes, attend meetings and take care of his baby; he said he would continue volunteering regardless. “I still volunteer and will continue to. I am happy to have my name continue to be on the community volunteer roster.”