Making Small Contributions for a Better World

Apr 29 2022

With Shanghai under a COVID-19 lockdown, neighbors are turning to one another for support, and many – including a group of NYU Shanghai volunteers – have stepped up to the frontlines to keep their communities going. Among them are students who have joined the volunteering team upon arrival at the quarantine center; employees who spend their working hours assisting the NYU Shanghai community’s emergency needs and who after hours continue serving their neighborhood residents; and faculty members who’ve been trying their best to serve as a bridge between residents and neighborhood committee. 

One common thread tied the NYU Shanghai volunteers’ motives together – a call to action to help those around them. “One individual can not save the whole world, but for the one you offer help to, you are saving his world," said volunteer and NYU Shanghai Ph.D. student and undergraduate alum Watcher Wang ’17.




Fei Zeping '20
IMA Associate Fellow

Pudong New District


My volunteer story
"Not long after the lockdown started, I saw that the neighborhood committee in my compound was short of staff. There are more than 3,000 residents, but there are only six or seven people on the neighborhood committee. I see myself as a bridge and a mediator between residents and the neighborhood committee. As a resident, I am fully aware of the needs and dissatisfaction of the residents and can voice our reasonable needs to the neighborhood committee. As a volunteer, I can personally understand the situation and difficulties of the residents' committee when working together, and also help the residents understand that. During this special time, it is important to see both sides and have the ability to empathize with each other. My volunteer work started on 29 March, and I usually help on weekday evenings and weekends. When I help with PRC testing, I'm responsible for scanning codes, pasting barcodes on test tubes, and collecting them afterward. When there are no PCR tests, I help distribute antigens and supplies, disinfect buildings, deliver packages to residents, and so on. Volunteering is hard work, but for me, it is also a journey of self-discovery. The experience has made me more aware of my own scope of acceptance and sense of responsibility, and I am always trying to broaden it. The most memorable part was the first time I worked on the PCR tests. We were informed at around 6 am that volunteers were to meet at the neighborhood committee in 15 minutes. Then we worked from 7 am to 4 pm without eating, drinking, or using the restroom. After finishing the work, I found my face had a mark left by wearing the mask for too long and my voice was hoarse. But compared to other doctors, nurses, and grassroots workers, our work is really quite not that much."

A word to the NYU Shanghai community and the city of Shanghai
"When words are not enough to express our ideas to make a difference to society, go and take action. A small action leads to more chances of change and hope."



2Second from the left

Che (Watcher) Wang '17
Computer Science Ph.D. Student 

Pudong New District


My volunteer story
"I was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 14, and was transferred the next day to the temporary hospital - or fangcang - at Shanghai New International Expo Center. My stay at the fangcang ended on April 20. I didn't plan to volunteer at first, as I'm a bit introverted and I had some work to finish. However, as soon as I arrived there, I quickly noticed that many people needed help registering for hospitalization, especially the elderly - some of them didn't have mobile phones, some didn't have WeChat to fill in forms, and some didn't know how to type on cell phones or take screenshots for submitting forms, so I decided to help. I immediately joined the volunteering group on the first day and started to help with all sorts of things in my area. Our work usually started around 5 am. every day: moving food and necessities from the gate inside, handing out meals, helping out nurses. These 'requests' would be posted in the volunteers' WeChat group. In my spare time, I would walk around my area to see who was in need of help. Sometimes I thought about how to enhance the efficiency of the volunteer work by improving the workflow. I brought a suitcase full of ham and bread and other snacks with me to the fangcang and I shared all of them with the elderly people around. My intention to join the volunteer team was quite simple - I wanted to share the workload of the nurses and doctors and make their lives easier. The more help they got from volunteers, the more efficient their work could be, and also, they wouldn't be too exhausted. Volunteers usually didn't stay very long as many of them left after recovering. But I was quite touched that some of them, though they left the fangcang, still passed on their experience by guiding newcomers in the WeChat group on how to do the work. They could have just left and stopped caring, but they didn't. Their hearts were still with us."


A word to the NYU Shanghai community and the city of Shanghai
"As common people, we may not have the power to save the world. However, we're always able to do something to help the people around us. What you can do might be little, but what you do may mean the whole world to the people you help. Living in a world full of uncertainties, whenever you are at a loss and don't know what to do, try to start with the little things around you. We don't have to aim big, but just think about how to make things better, even just a little bit, and that's good enough."




Guo Hao
Director of Employer Relations and Associate Director of the Career Development Center, Student Life

Putuo District


My volunteer story
"I signed up immediately when I saw the volunteer recruitment notice posted by the neighborhood committee in my compound. I hope to make contributions as best as I can and help the elderly and disadvantaged groups as well as encourage more young people to join us. When the building manager moved out after one of her family members was hospitalized, I became the acting manager of the building where 24 households live. We have planned and unexpected tasks to do every day, including organizing and assisting with the PCR tests, distributing government supplies, discussing and finalizing group-purchasing rules, and distributing packages purchased by groups. There are also many needs for dispensing medicine among the elderly and children. I am more closely connected with my neighbors than ever before and have a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of my compound. I've seen the neighborhood committee and grassroots staff working very hard and relentlessly, and how the elderly and disabled are limited by their lack of digital technology skills or abilities. At the same time, I've been encouraged by the volunteers who try their best to help others. There are so many touching moments, such as the encouraging words from the volunteer WeChat group, and the smiles on our elderly neighbors' faces when they receive their medication. The most touching moment for me was taking a photo with a delivery volunteer when I received the medication from him for an old lady in my building."

A word to the NYU Shanghai community and the city of Shanghai
"I believe we've already found our way out during the toughest time. Let's try our best to take care of not only ourselves but our friends and family, and look forward to life after the lockdown is lifted. It won't be too long."




Trista Xiao
Staff Development Manager, Human Resources

Minhang District


My volunteer story
"For me, the reason for being a volunteer is very simple. Our building manager moved out early this year and the neighborhood committee asked my parents to help with various affairs in the building. As this new spike in COVID has inflicted more and more pressure on the compound and my building, I decided to help my dad and do something for my neighbors. I started volunteering on March 26. I thought it was an interesting experience at first as we sometimes needed to wear protective suits, making ourselves look like 'Baymax'. As the situation became severe, I gradually realized the challenges facing the grassroots staff and that all the things they have been dealing with were very trivial but important. I started to help sorting and handing out antigen rapid test kits, collecting and confirming results each time, distributing supplies, and notifying everyone about the PCR testing times. I also helped the elderly in my building with their cell phones. We are responsible for only one building, but we still feel tired after working for such a long time. I'm very grateful for the efforts of all front-line staff who have such heavy workloads. I also feel more connected with my neighbors during this challenging time. I've lived here for many years but wasn't familiar with everyone in the building. Now, I think we all know each other well. I will never forget that my neighbor gave me some bananas and said 'thank you' to me when I handed out an antigen test pack to her. I was so touched by that moment. Of course, I couldn't receive her gift, but I felt very happy.”


A word to the NYU Shanghai community and the city of Shanghai
"I hope that everyone can overcome all these difficulties. I believe that we will meet each other on campus very soon. Spring will always come. Stay strong, stay healthy!"



5First from the left

Li Gen
Postdoctoral Fellow of Global Public Health

Pudong New District


My volunteer story
"Many of my friends became volunteers during this challenging time, which has made me aware that there is a huge shortage of volunteers. My father also encouraged me to help the community, so I became a volunteer on April 11, working about 2 hours per day on weekdays and a little more on weekends. As no cases have been reported here since the lockdown started, I hope that everyone in my building can remain physically and mentally healthy until everything goes back to normal. I am mainly responsible for unloading, sterilizing, and distributing supplies delivered by the government or purchased by groups. Sometimes I help the building manager maintain order during PCR testing. My new task recently is to work with engineers from a manufacturer and provide automated delivery service via an unmanned delivery van in my compound. I follow up on the van's technical maintenance as well. I think that middle-aged and older people form the backbone of the volunteer team in my compound. They are active in organizing, directing, and other tasks on the frontline. I notice that more and more young people like me are joining the team. I admire the leader of our distribution team the most. He is a 60-year-old man who always takes the lead in doing tasks, carrying supplies, and delivering them with his electric bike to all households again and again. He also mobilized his daughter to join the team. I remembered one night our work was delayed until 11 pm due to logistics, but he didn’t complain at all."


A word to the NYU Shanghai Community and the City of Shanghai
"I'd like to share one line from the lyrics of The Internationale: ‘We want no condescending saviors to rule us from a judgment hall. We workers ask not for their favors; Let us consult for all.'"