Feature: Hard but rewarding work in Crete for Chinese volunteers aiding evacuees

09:11, March 02, 2011      

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The first compatriots Chinese evacuees from troubled Libya see as soon as they step on Greek island of Crete over the past week, are Chinese nationals living in Greece who have volunteered to support the ongoing rescue operation.

Volunteers' group leader Robin Wang along over 60 Greek- speaking Chinese are also the last compatriots Chinese evacuees will wave goodbye to, before they fly back home after a few days' rest.

Working closely with Chinese embassy officials who are in charge of this mass evacuation, volunteers have become the round- the-clock link between evacuees and locals, "guardian angels," as one could say. "Students and businessmen, members of the Chinese community in Athens, volunteers have left behind their families and work to provide any possible assistance to compatriots who had to flee Libya," Wang told Xinhua Tuesday.

They are here to escort them from the port onto the buses which carry them to the hotels where they are accommodated. They are by their side when they check in and out.

They have written down the signs in Chinese raised at the lobbies and the restaurants with basic information, such as " Switch TV to channel 11, 12, 15 to watch Chinese programs," " Lunch is served from 12 a.m. to 2 p.m"and "No-smoking in rooms please."

Volunteers are on stand-by to facilitate their first telephone call back home, distributing international phone cards. They escort them to local hospitals and follow them to local supermarkets to help with the communication with Greeks.

Special correspondent of "Phoenix TV" and chief editor of " China-Greece Times," a weekly newspaper printed over the past six years in Athens, Wang and his group had packed and got ready in two hours after he was informed by the embassy about the operation on Feb. 23.

Over 11,000 Chinese nationals have been ferried to Crete aboard chartered Greek vessels so far. On average each volunteer is responsible for up to 200 persons. They try to share the burden of work in shifts, but the workload is still heavy.

With a three-hour sleep per day on average over the past week, Wang and his team of "guardian angels" have pulled a miracle during this crisis, working hard all day long.

Jing Ling, a Chinese lady who married a Greek diplomat, booked an air ticket for Crete immediately when she learned the rescue operation. As a fluent English and Greek speaker, she spent the last weekend here, getting up at 4 in the morning to help the evacuees check out from their hotels and check in at the airport.

Source: Xinhua

Xu Weichun, an Athens-based businessman, was on a trip to China when his compatriots started to be ferried out of Libya to Crete. He abandoned his trip and flew to the island. He also asked his colleagues to bring medicine, telephone cards to the Athens airport for the evacuees. "The reward is unparalleled, when you constantly hear 'thank you' and you see that the evacuees enjoy their accommodation here. They are impressed with everything. They feel safe and happy here. After all, even in winter time Crete is a paradise," says Robin Wang.

Chinese volunteers will continue to help until all evacuees fly back home in safety, probably by the end of this week.

Embassy officials and volunteers will be the last Chinese to leave Crete, with everybody wishing that the island would become a popular destination for many Chinese visitors in the future.
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