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Those nonpareil Dunhuang media cooperation forum volunteers!

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

Volunteers, cherished guides for journalists. Photo by Kimeng Hilton

The 2017 Media Cooperation Forum on Belt and Road hosted by People’s Daily held in Dunhuang in China’s northwestern Gansu Province on September 19. It was followed the next two days by the Second Silk Road International Cultural Exposition. For the over 460 media executives from China and 126 foreign countries and international organizations – especially the 303 foreign journalists - there was something they are likely not to forget in haste.

New colleagues, new friends

Journalists met new colleagues, made new friends, exchanged addresses and easily familiarized with the big and famous in the industry. Even grey hair octogenarians who began practising this noble profession long before most of the parents of today’s young journalists even thought of getting married! Talk less of giving birth to them! On the other hand, the media forum host city, Dunhuang, turned out to be small, rural, airy and beautiful; just like the Dunhuang International Convention and Exhibition Centre where the two international events held.

But even much more importantly, organisers of the media forum and cultural expo won the hearts of participants, especially journalists, by assigning them a nonpareil group of almost 200 youngsters. Militarily-smart and ever-smiling, the university student volunteers were always clad in their green and grey tracksuits with matching white baseball caps, sparkling white tennis shoes and panniers hanging from their waists.

Exceptional alertness

Li Lan always ready to give a helping hand to her assigned journalists. Photo by Kimeng Hilton

As soon as we pulled up in the grounds of the labyrinthine three-storey Huaxia International Hotel, Dunhuang at about 7.30 pm on Sunday September 17, 2017, the male and female volunteers all began dashing to our bus. Clutching large brown envelopes containing media forum brochures, itinerary, room electronic cards, etc, and as if in a competitive race, the youngsters called out in French, English …. “Monsieur Diouf!” “Miss Ogunsina!” “Mr Biegon!” as they tried to locate the three journalists assigned to each of them.

Earlier, Qing Yang or Marshall, one of our guides from the China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC in the Chinese capital, Beijing, informed us – 27 journalists from Africa and 15 others from South Asia and Southeast Asia - that we were to tarry a bit in the bus when it got to the hotel. A female colleague who needed to urgently attend to the call of nature could not help but dash out to the nearest restroom when the bus drew to a stop.

As we alighted from the over 50-seat luxury bus, the excited students began introducing themselves. “I’m Marie” “I’m Li” “I’m Wang” “I’m Eric, I am looking for Mr Aly….” Of course they explained that they were volunteers assigned to help us throughout our stay in Dunhuang. The explanations continued as we walked the 100 odd metres to the lobby of Huaxia International Hotel. Helping in pulling along our luggage, the youngsters did not only end in the lobby, but accompanied us right to the doors of our rooms! Not without having explained the following day’s schedule.

University student volunteer and African journalist walk to an activity at the Dunhuang media cooperation forum. Photo by Kimeng Hilton

“Sirs, remember breakfast is on the first floor from 7 am to 7.50 am. Please, gather in the lobby at 8 am for departure to Mogao Caves ……” continued Hui Chao, also known as Eric. A Master’s degree student in Interpretation and Translation at Lanzhou University in the Gansu provincial capital, Eric was assigned to Aly Diouf from Senegal, Cyprien Kapuku Kabunda from the Democratic Republic of Congo and my humble self.


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