A Day of Volunteering the Beijing Summit of FOCAC

Author:Ye Jinyi     October 08,2018

(CUC students volunteered for the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Photograph/ Yan Li)

CUC students volunteered for the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Photograph/ Yan Li

At six O’clock  early in the morning, we were on a bus travelling along Chang’an Street. The sun emerged from the east, sending rays through the cracks of clouds. I could feel the fresh, cool and crispy air brushing my cheeks.

It was September 3, the opening day of the 2018 Beijing Summit of FOCAC (the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation). I, along with my CUC schoolmates, had been volunteering for the summit since its preparation. We had just started the second half of our service at Media Center of the 2018 Beijing Summit of FOCAC. It was the first volunteering experience I had as an undergraduate, and in my current list of experiences, this event is one I’ll miss the most.

More than 2,500 volunteers from 32 Beijing universities served various duties including the airport, hotels, conference halls, and tourist spots. I was among one of the 400 volunteers who worked in the media center, responsible for news reporting and publicity. We were participating in a comprehensive task of running the entire building, which required for engineering, language, CS, medical, and journalism students and professionals. Each day we have to get prepared before the building starts to operate at 7 AM and make sure all the work is done before it closes by midnight.

At 6:30 in the morning, the building started to wake. Chefs were serving breakfast at the buffet counter with soft scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, sausage patties, stir-fried noodles and ice-cold orange juice. Huang Zhe (Class of 2019) was among the earliest to arrive. She needed to distribute thousands of pages of documents into packs, which would later be handed out to media representatives. At the break of dawn, the volunteers lined up and worked like an assembly line. Daily statistics showed that more than 1,300 packages were produced.

8:00 AM, Sep. 3rd, volunteers wait at the information desk for consultation. Photograph/Ye Jinyi

The clock stroked 8:00. Flocks of journalists and media workers flooded the media center. The information desk at the entrance hall became the first destination for people of all sorts. Front desk consultant Fang Xiaoyuan (Class of 2019), a CUC junior concentrating in Portuguese, began the busiest time of her day. To make sure that Portuguese-speaking journalists were well catered for, she made additional Portuguese translations to the English and French labels on the staff manual.

10:00 o’clock marked the apex of the building’s traffic. It contained hundreds of journalists on duty, their fingers tapping and dancing on the keyboards. Huge screens got piled up with news conferences and announcements about the forthcoming summit. Yan Chenxi (Class of 2020) marched through the journalists, ready to offer immediate technical support on Internet connection, staff registration and so on. She paced forward gently, avoiding her heels to make any recognizable sound on the floor.

Yan Chenxi, a volunteer in the Media Center focusing on technical support of computer and television. Photograph/ Bai Letian

A reporter announced 12:00 AM on the news-broadcasting screen, drawing an end to a busy morning. The building became quiet.

Around 2:00 PM, I was in the middle of numerous news reports, photographs, personal diaries, blogs, trying to sort out some material for today’s newspaper page. I got frenzied when my leader called me and asked to reshoot a photograph at a hotel-you-know-where. Being so busy at the moment, the last thing I wanted was something that would make me even more occupied. It seemed like an exercise in productivity. The government had imposed car restrictions on Chang’an Street, so getting a taxi was impossible. I grabbed my camera, set the GPS and headed towards the hotel by bike.

Near 5:00 PM, I returned to the Media Center with to-be-published news articles and photographs. On television, the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation was live broadcasted. President Xi Jinping declared the historical conference open. I sat down in the news conference room, listening to President Xi’s opening speech as his voice echoed inside the whole building.

President Xi Jinping giving the opening speech of FOCAC. Photograph/ Ye Jinyi

A total of 75 CUC students took part in this international event. Liu Dawei (Class of 2019) is a graduate student and my fellow colleague at the summit’s publicity group.

“Before this summit we visited the embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe, where we were introduced to the history and wonders of this beautiful African nation,”Dawei said. “Volunteering for this summit makes me know Africa more and think,  it’s a real privilege to be here.”

“It’s an incredible privilege to be so close to this historical event,” agreed An Bowen, a student of 2021 session). “Close to this event of diplomatic prominence, of the monument for China-Africa relations. To come from a suburb in Tianjin, where people rarely engage in public affairs, to a place where I can take my part in an important state conference, is such an amazing revelation that occurred to me during my first year.”

The volunteering experiences are meant to jumpstart the students' enthusiasm towards China solutions by letting college students know that there are ways they can get involved with state affairs. Bowen, for instance, is a tour guide, and has spent a considerable amount of time holding the signal board and showing foreign guests around the media center’s photo exhibition.

“It was cool to have the opportunity to not only select the works but also orient them within the space, and have a go at creating a small narrative and trying my hand at curation,” said Bowen. 

CUC students posing in joy after volunteering the summit. Photograph/ Yan Li

This porous boundary between the student body and the participation in national events has given me some of my best memories as a volunteer. Every time I saw my news reports published in the newspapers like Guangming Daily and China Youth Daily, I felt satisfied that my modest efforts have comprised a contribution.

The sun was dipping. From dawn to dusk, the color of the sky constantly improvised and revealed itself in variations. I strolled down the corridor to my post, walking past the familiar photos that lined the walls. 

Editor: Hu Zhenchao, Arshad Bhatti