Donning a blue vest, shielded with face mask, and gloves, Bethany Sootheran is a little busy these days. Though overwhelmed by the news of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the ballet and contemporary dancer from New York looks unfazed as she stepped out to serve as a volunteer in a community center in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province, delivering fresh vegetables for her neighbors in self-imposed quarantine in Chengbang community.
“Noticing on WeChat that our friends at community center were working very hard to keep us all safe I was beginning to feel discontent at home unable to do anything to help. I reached out to the center leader, asking if there was anything we could do,” Sootheran told the Global Times.
Sootheran is among a dozen of foreign volunteers from Suzhou Industry Park, one of Jiangsu’s most foreigner-populated areas. As of 2019 end the industrial park has issued 4,322 foreign working permits, including 1,675 tier-A working permits.
When novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) broke out many of them decided to stand with the Chinese and joined volunteer groups to contribute their bit to the community with efforts such as dispatching daily commodities to home quarantines and purchasing medical supplies overseas.
“People seem surprised to see foreigners out and about volunteering. Many have said ‘haogandong(so touched)’,” she said. “But to us this feels like a small thing. I am inspired by the quiet strength and diligence of the people here. Everyone is cheerfully and carefully doing their part.”
Goran Martinovic, a Croatian national, is a boxing trainer in Suzhou. When the NCP broke out his first thought was go to Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly disease, only to be discouraged by his Chinese friends.
Then idea struck and he managed to ship 20,000 protective masks from Croatia. “I didn’t expect that it would be so tough to get the medical equipment. Everywhere it has run out of stock.” he told the Global Times. Martinovic managed to secure a shipment of 10 boxes of medical masks with the help of his friends and family in Croatia.
“They are sent from Croatia and currently in transmit. Can arrive any minute. “Martinovic said, using his expertise in sports and training he also developed a 30-minute home workout gymnastics for people to exercise at home during the epidemic.” Strong immunity system is the best prevention against all kinds of virus. So I would say there is no reason to panic. Just be normal,” he said.
For both Sootheran and Martinovic, China is their second home.
Sootheran and her husband own an Arts Center in Suzhou that offers organizes cultural events in the city. They have been living here for about 6 years. Her family in the US asked them to return to the US till the outbreak recedes yet they choose to stay in China and fight against the NCP together with the Chinese.
“Our families are concerned for us but they understand that China is our home. Our entire life is here. And our hearts are with the Chinese people. They are our second family.”
Martinovic first came to China in 2015 with his elder brother to teach boxing at a charity boxing event. His brother left China after a few months but Martinovic stayed ever since. He is currently running a boxing club and organizes charity boxing events twice a year to help promote the sport in China.
“Not many places can do the same under similar situations,” he said adding that he is impressed by the transparency of information and strong management ability showed by the government to fight against the virus.
“Suzhou is my second hometown, China is also my home. Home is where the heart is. Together we will fight through this and win. Maybe we feel down now, but later we will bounce much higher,” he said.