Fatima Wang, a long-time Richmondite, will never forget Jan. 23, 2020 — two days before Chinese New Year.
It was not only the day her city of origin, Wuhan, was locked down in an effort to control the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), it was also the day she lost her uncle.
Wang’s uncle, who lived in Wuhan along with her parents and other family members, passed away from heart disease.
Amidst the sudden lockdown and panic that swept through the city of 11 million people, he was unable to get the heart surgery in time.
“My uncle had been sent to several hospitals for surgery. Unfortunately, all hospitals were packed with people during that time. When he arrived at the fifth one, it was already too late.”
However, Wang said her uncle’s family members pulled themselves together quickly following the tragic event.
And it was their example that inspired her to join a local volunteer group that delivers groceries to families in Richmond who have self-isolated for two weeks after returning from China.
“Instead of mourning my uncle’s loss, my relatives wiped off their tears and decided to help other residents in Wuhan,” said Wang.
“My uncle’s son has been busy driving through the city to bring medical supplies to doctors who are fighting on the front lines against the virus.
“Another cousin of mine has been working day and night (testing) drivers’ body temperatures on highways in Wuhan to ensure public safety. They are doing it because they deeply love the city they live in. I am so proud of my family members.”
Meanwhile, her parents, who live in Wuhan and are not allowed to leave their home, remain unconcerned about their food supply, because many young people who live in the same neighbourhood are continually bringing them fresh vegetables and basic necessities, said Wang.
“I think many people in Wuhan are like my family members. We are people with courage, optimistic spirit and kind hearts. We unite together and try to look after each other in this difficult time.
“People from my hometown also inspired me to help others, to be selfless, to share and to serve,” said Wang with a determined look on her face.
Despite her busy career as a financial advisor, Wang makes time to pick up groceries and place them on the porch or front steps of the homes of people in isolation.
“We all share the responsibility to contribute to our society, and my heart is filled with warmth and happiness after receiving lots of lovely ‘thank you’ messages from people,” said Wang.
However, Wang also urges tolerance and understanding from the local community after experiencing prejudice due to her connection with Wuhan.
“One of the travellers told me to stay away from her once she heard I am from Wuhan. Although I told her that I haven’t been to Wuhan for quite a long time, she was panicking and asked to get help from another volunteer,” said Wang.
She added it’s not that helpful to judge people through a “coloured lens” at this moment, the best way to get through the current situation is being supportive of one another.