Since the Covid outbreak in Shanghai in mid-March, the number of positive cases has climbed to more than 500,000, and the lockdown in some places has continued for more than 30 days.
Many residents were unprepared for the rapid spread of the epidemic. In contrast, some NGOs had predicted it and made preparations.
Li Xuechun, secretary general of NPI Foundation, told a reporter that, she felt the seriousness of the situation and began to prepare at the very beginning, when some of her colleagues were suddenly locked down at home, due to occasional cases in random areas.
On March 18, one week before the official announcement of the city-wide restrictions, NPI launched the joint action with Fosun Foundation, and NCP Life Support Team, to raise funds, collect and verify information about the needs of communities, coordinate material procurement and distribution, and track feedback.
On April 2, the first “Defend Shanghai” live charity broadcast was held, with many key opinion leaders (KOLs) and internet celebrities invited to take part. Since then, more and more NGOs have been involved in the joint action.
As of April 19, NPI has supported more than 10,000 volunteers working in the communities, and provided more than 340,000 aid packages including epidemic prevention and food supplies, benefiting nearly 800,000 residents.
Cooperation between NGOs
Li explained that each organization has its own advantages and plays an irreplaceable role in the partnership.
For example, the NCP Life Support Team provided professional medical and mental health services; the Fosun Foundation solved the warehousing problems; and Wu-li-xiang Community Service Center were able to quickly collect and verify community needs, thanks to their years of grassroots work.
The contribution of the private sector cannot be underestimated either. Benefitting from ByteDance’s technical support, the number of viewers who watched the live broadcast reached an astonishing 35 million in a short period of time.
The participants have different values and ways of working, but their goals are the same: to care for life, to help people in need, and to empower the community.
Focusing on vulnerable groups
According to statistics, there are more than 5.8 million elderly people in Shanghai, and more than 300,000 of them live alone. Unlike young people who can seek help and buy supplies through the internet on their mobile phones, many elderly people do not know how to shop online. And some suffer from chronic diseases and are unable to use the stairs.
The number of people registered as disabled is nearly 600,000, according to the civil affairs department, meaning that the total number of disabled people is probably much larger.
The population of low-income migrant workers trapped in Shanghai is even larger, and it is difficult to get an accurate picture of their numbers.
To solve the difficulties of the above-mentioned groups, many residents spontaneously formed volunteer groups. They took the initiative to get in touch with people in need and dispatched relief materials.
More than 160 residents groups in different neighborhoods across the city have taken part in NPI’s joint action.
NPI’s original plan was to first create a social impact through conducting projects and organizing live broadcast events, and then achieve sustainability through public fundraising.
However, the speed and scale of the closure of the city far exceeded their orginal plan. A huge funding gap, caused by rapidly increasing demand, occurred in just a few days.
At this time, one of NPI’s long-term partners, the Alumni Association of Peking University in Shanghai, extended a helping hand. They launched an initiative called “Help the Elderly in Distress” among the alumni, and published a moving report. In just one night, 860,000 yuan ($126,394) was raised from the alumni, providing much-needed financial support for the initial period.
After that, with the increased visibility of the joint action, funding was no longer so difficult to obtain. As of April 19, public donations have reached more than 5 million yuan.
NGOs’ contribution to urban resilience
Shanghai is undoubtedly the most developed city in China, both economically and socially. Regardless of the huge impact caused by the epidemic and lockdown, we can see the efforts and achievements of various types of civil society groups, including corporate foundations, platform NGOs, industry associations, chambers of commerce, and alumni organizations, as well as grassroots NGOs and spontaneous volunteer groups in communities.
They have demonstrated their ability to quickly respond to government policies, to meet the needs of residents, especially vulnerable groups, and to collaborate to boost the city’s resilience.