From drunken troublemaker to star volunteer

in 2013, when Zheng Jinxing and his friends began nightly patrols of the Jin’an community in Xiamen, a coastal city in east China’s Fujian Province, burglaries were frequent.

“Thieves are skillful, they can open a door with a plastic card. Some of the locks in our community are inadequate, so we often encourage residents to change their locks,” the 54-year-old said.

Zheng and his team of volunteers patrol from 8pm to 10pm every night. They see it as their duty to the community, which is made up of mainly low and middle-income families.

“If we see car lights on or doors unlocked, we let the owners know. We return lost bags, mobile phones and drivers’ licenses or hand them over to the police,” he said.

A sanitation worker, Zheng’s day begins at 3am. When he finishes work, he returns to the community to guide traffic. After dinner, he goes out on patrol.

However, when he first moved to the community in 2009, he was known as a “troublemaker.”

“I always got drunk and got into fights, nothing in the community was good in my eyes,” he recalled. “The head of the committee said I should change my behavior. It took time, but eventually I was able to change.”

Zheng is now regarded as a star among the district’s 2,562 registered volunteers.

Covering an area of 310,000 square meters, Jin’an is Xiamen’s largest government-built community for low-income families.

Its comprehensive volunteer system earned it an award as one of China’s “most beautiful communities” last year.

In the morning, a group of red-coated grandmas collect garbage in the community and teach the benefits of sorting recyclables.

During the day, basketball, choir and tai chi clubs — all organized by volunteers — fill Jin’an with laughter and song.

The residents have free access to almost any service they require from water and electricity maintenance, psychological and legal counseling, to medical treatment and translation services, as part of the voluntary services in the community.

They can even request a specific service by posting their needs online or leaving a message in a suggestion box.

If the request is reasonable, the residential community committee will check the volunteer schedule and arrange for someone with the relevant knowledge to assist.

To meet the needs of the more than 2,000 elderly residents who live alone or have mobility issues, a group of middle-aged residents formed the “Sunset Red” team.

They regularly visit and chat with those in need, read them newspapers, clean their homes or help them buy groceries.

Chen Liming, director of the residential committee, said that all the community’s meeting rooms are made available free of charge for the various activities.

“On weekdays, most of our volunteers are middle-aged and elderly people, while younger people often serve the community at night and on weekends,” Chen said.

“We have volunteers in every building. They collect the residents’ suggestions to help us evaluate our services on a regular basis.”

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