Community worker finds solutions, improves lives

Update: 2021-05-14
By: LI HONGYANG in Beijing and LIU MINGTAI in Changchun(China Daily Global)

When Wu Yaqin began working for a residential community committee in Changchun in 1995, she was surprised to find that her workload was so heavy.

Facilities in the neighborhood needed a complete overhaul and issues, both old and new, had to be resolved.

"I was just 35 and had no experience dealing with these kinds of things, let alone conflicts between couples and neighbors, dealing with unemployment and care for the elderly," said Wu, who is also Party secretary of the community of about 3,100 households.

The Changshan community, located in the capital city of Jilin province, was originally the dormitory for a State-owned metal parts factory.

Wu, a former worker at the factory, has been serving the community for decades. Thanks to her efforts, broken windows, leaking roofs and old houses have been repaired, while playing fields and a tutoring center have been added to serve residents. She even set up a volunteer network to help the community's older and less able residents.

The 60-year-old's dedication has won her several central government awards, including the Star of China's Alley Premier and Role Model of the Times.

"I am the kind of person who tries to do everything the best that I can, and never admits defeat. Despite the difficulties, I chose not to quit because I don't allow people to say anything negative behind my back," she said.

As soon as she stepped into the position, Wu encouraged residents to raise funds to renovate their broken homes and facilities. She also organized Party members in the community to do volunteer work, such as canvassing for opinions and helping others.

Over the years, Wu has worked hard on resolving unemployment in the community.

Between 2003 and 2004, Wu applied for loans of about 200,000 yuan (about $24,400 at the time) for those who were unemployed. Hundreds of people found jobs at companies, while others started their own businesses, such as grocery shops.

She helped residents unable to walk to apply to a school where they could learn electrical maintenance, and then found them repair shops to work in, negotiated with a company producing kitchen and sanitary wares to employ women from the community who were qualified, and even used her own performance bonuses to have work clothes made for residents in need.

In 2013, she opened a tutoring center, run by volunteers who are mostly Party members, who pick up children whose parents are still at work, and help them with their homework after school. In 2015, a will bank for the elderly was set up to help avoid disputes. The bank caters to nearly 1,000 people over the age of 60, some of them widowed. She also created a volunteer group to visit the widowed every day.

Before 2016, Wu and her family lived in Changshan. She came to work at 6:30 am every day and usually left at 8 pm. Sometimes, her husband would complain that she should just "take her quilt to the office to reduce the commute, and care for the residents more", and when her own daughter was preparing for the gaokao, the national college entrance exam, Wu was too busy to tutor. In 2003 and 2008, she underwent two operations to her vocal cords, because after years of community work, she had nearly lost her voice.

"If the big family (community) is not in good shape, my small family is not, either. One day, when I retire, I will make it up to my husband and daughter," she said.

On several occasions, Wu was faced with offers of "bonuses" from residents asking her for administrative favors. She said she never accepted, and disciplined the few who offered. After that, residents no longer tried to persuade her with money or gifts.

"Control your mouth. Do not eat or drink excessively. Do not say empty, or wrong words. Control your hands. Do not accept or ask for anything that doesn't belong to you. Control your eyes. Do not compare yourself to others, or go with the flow," she said."It is not difficult to behave with integrity as long as one keeps these things in mind."

"Community work is no small matter. Residents have high expectations of us and it's only if I do my work well, that they will trust me," she said.

Han Junhong contributed to this story.