In early December 2019, the novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, hit Wuhan, a medium-sized city about the size of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, located in Hubei province, SE China. The rapid spread and debilitating effects of the virus led to a lockdown, not just in Hubei province but throughout China, with people being strongly advised to stay at home. Even grocery purchases were encouraged to be through online delivery. Social pressure to remain indoors was very strong. Many people returned to family homes, mostly high-rise apartments. All school was canceled and schoolchildren remain at home with their families.
People have been confined to their apartments for over 50 days now. This short story is from our China staff on how they are coping with their situations:
I am Yu Qian, the International Crane Foundation’s China Program Director living in Beijing. I have been quarantined in my apartment for about 50 days. The food and basic supplies are always enough in Beijing. In the early days, I can’t help following the news about the disease. I spent hours on the internet every day, communicating with friends and partners to confirm whether they are OK, especially those in Hubei province, where COVID-19 first appeared.
It was a bit depressing. We lost a friend from a non-governmental organization in Wuhan, who worked on nature education for many years. He and his wife both passed away. Then I realized I should distract myself, or do something, so I joined a volunteer group to help the sick enroll a hospital bed, send them a breathing machine. I was inspired and encouraged by many experienced, active and tireless volunteers. “Do what we can do.”
Being stuck at home, all the field work and education projects in school are suspended. But we realize a new opportunity. People spend more time on the internet, beautiful pictures and nature stories can offer relief from the overwhelming bad news. So, we spend more effort on communication. We publish WeChat and Weibo articles – social media networks popular in China – more intensively. As a result, the number of our Weibo followers increased from over 50,000 to 109,570 by March 12.
We also are working with Shanghai Disney to tell the cranes’ story through their Earth Month online campaign. Through brainstorming with local teachers, an English teacher in Keerqin in northeast China innovatively introduced the International Crane Foundation and crane knowledge to her online English class through reading materials. Guo Zhiwei, our China Program Officer, is participating and helping with this online activity.
In this special period, friendship is important. I keep in communication with our partners not only about work. The above picture with my friends was taken on Feb. 13. We agreed to have another one to see how long our hair and beards will be, before we can freely go outside.
I am sorry to see the coronavirus is spreading to the world. I hope it will be contained as soon as possible and hope everyone is safe and healthy.
Story submitted by Yu Qian, China Program Director. Introduction by Spike Millington, Vice President International – Asia.