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Those nonpareil Dunhuang media cooperation forum volunteers! (2)

By Kimeng Hilton Ndukong (People's Daily Online)    17:43, September 29, 2017

Refreshing our memories

Early the following morning, Eric sent us greetings on the Wechat group he created the previous evening (Wechat being China’s equivalent of WhatsApp). He inquired how we slept and urged us not to forget breakfast and departure time. By 8 am, he was already waiting in the lobby to accompany us to the bus for a tour of the historic Buddhist Mogao Caves or shrine, about 20 minutes away from Dunhuang.

Throughout our four-day stay in Dunhuang, Hui Chao, Li Lan, Wang Meng, Zhang Hanyi and the 91 other Master’s degree students in Interpretation and Translation from Lanzhou University were always by our side – though for most of them, it was their first time in Dunhuang. The 95 postgraduate student volunteers from Lanzhou University were joined by about 100 other student volunteers from Northwestern Normal University, Lanzhou.

Personal, "professional" touch

Like personal sports trainers, guardians, tutors or guides, the young humble volunteers never for a moment forgot what their role was. They accompanied us on tourist trips, to the dance drama performance, reception by local officials, the media centre, identified and led us to our seats at every event, carried our files ….. It was therefore no surprise that the student volunteers won the hearts of journalists in Dunhuang by their exceptional, unequaled, matchless and incomparable conduct and duty-consciousness.

A French-speaking senior colleague and elderly Managing Editor from Niger Republic could not hide his admiration. He showed me a two-folded-page schedule his female volunteer scribbled for him in French for the evening and following day’s activities. In spite of the availability of an information booklet distributed earlier to media forum and cultural expo participants and journalists. The note contained a simple checklist of what the Managing Editor had to do and at what time and place. The Managing Editor told me he was so impressed not only with the volunteer’s hard work, but also her good level of French.

Volunteers alert for work any time, anywhere. Photo by Kimeng Hilton

Another African journalist said he also received similar notes in French from his volunteer to help him not to forget what he had to do each day. Apart from hand-written reminders, volunteers made abundant use of Wechat text messages to keep us abreast of what was coming up. Even as we rode in designated buses, volunteers would from time to time, with smiles, recall for us what activity was due next.

No assumptions

Hui Chao, Li Lan, Wang Meng, Zhang Hanyi and their colleagues never stopped refreshing the minds of personalities and journalists to whom they were assigned as to what needed to be done. They did not care if their guests might have overheard reminders of what was coming up next. Rather, they simply went ahead and did their job personally and in such unparalleled manner - without any assumptions.

“Do you need anything Sir?” “Is there anything you need Madam?” were some of the questions the students asked us regularly. Within a short period of four days, we had become so accustomed to our volunteers that we were simply inseparable.

Our teams of journalists from Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia have been in China since late February this year for two 10-month fellowship programmes. During this while, we covered important events like the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May and the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, BRICS economic bloc summit in Xiamen earlier this month.

But never did we experience such warmth and close follow-up by volunteers. Like those unexcelled university students we met at the 2017 Media Cooperation Forum on Belt and Road and the Second Silk Road International Cultural Exposition in Dunhuang, Gansu Province.

Volunteers wave at buses with journalists as they leave Huaxia International Hotel for Dunhuang Airport to fly back to Beijing. Photo by Kimeng Hilton


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