Belgian highlights humanity in tough times





Shanghai-based Belgian native Jan van der Borght (right) works as a volunteer in Yangpu district. [Photo provided to China Daily…

Shanghai-based Belgian native Jan van der Borght (right) works as a volunteer in Yangpu district. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Jan van der Borght, a Belgian resident in Shanghai, says China's approach to tackling the COVID-19 outbreak is in stark contrast to those taken by many other countries.

One thing from the current situation in Shanghai that is clear, however, is the beauty of the human spirit in times of adversity, says Van der Borght, who has been living in the city for about 18 years. Among the best examples of this, he adds, is the coming together of the residents of his compound to help one another overcome the shortage of supplies.

"People were willingly giving away what was surplus to them and exchanging daily essentials. The community has become much closer because of the measures," says Van der Borght, who currently resides in the Yangpu district with his Chinese wife and their 3-year-old daughter.

Eager to do his part to help the community, he signed up as a volunteer and helped with matters, including distributing supplies and disinfecting public areas. This experience, he says, has strengthened his connection to the community and allowed him to meet more people.

"I've found that the current situation is not a threat, but rather an opportunity to reach out and enlarge your world, starting from your own front door," he says.

Van der Borght, who works for the Antwerp-Bruges Port Authority in China, also started a diary on April 1 to document his experience of the situation.

Despite being a recipient of the golden Magnolia award, a high honor given to an expat in Shanghai, Van der Borght was relatively unknown to his neighbors until recently. But a funny mistake he made while typing a message in Chinese to inform his neighbors about supplies changed that.

"Suddenly I wasn't the laowai anymore, but the guy from 101," he writes in his diary.

During an interview with Xinhua News Agency, Van der Borght talks about meeting a German family he had previously only known through WeChat while taking a stroll with his daughter around the compound, which was then designated a precautionary zone-meaning people could now leave their homes.

"We have lived in the same community for seven years, and only became friends because of the COVID-19 outbreak," he says.

"When the epidemic comes to an end, I plan to invite the whole apartment building for a drink and a snack in the garden. This experience has brought us closer. While the virus will eventually go away, these friendships will remain as a lasting reward for us all."

Xu Shuwei contributed to this story.

This news comes from: China Daily

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