The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic respects no borders. Tackling the pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts is the absolute priority of most countries. As the virus spreads around the world, causing hardship and despair, the importance of reaching out and helping one another cannot be overstated. Sympathy and support are like rays of sunshine warming the hearts of people in tears.
Fighting the outbreak, drastic but necessary measures have been taken by the Chinese government. One such measure is the temporary suspension of entry of foreign nationals into the country. As an international joint-venture university in China, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) with its international faculty has been greatly affected by these temporary measures. Nonetheless, XJTLU has been coping well with the resulting challenges. By offering high-quality online teaching at all programme levels using virtual classrooms and interactive platforms, faculty ensured the continuation of students’ educational progress throughout this difficult semester.
Among the many faculty unable to return to Suzhou, were twenty-three members of the International Business School Suzhou (IBSS). But great distance cannot separate the family members of IBSS. Knowing about the deteriorating health situation in most countries and the growing difficulty of getting protective gear such as masks and plastic gloves, IBSS staff that remained in China decided to give a helping hand to the 23 colleagues scattered around the globe. They organized the sending of care packages, which contained packs of desperately needed face masks and gloves, to their colleagues abroad. To cover the substantial costs, staff made donations totalling RMB 14,450. The outpouring of help was heart-warming.
Along with each package, there was a letter written in the name of all IBSS colleagues and signed by Professor Jorg Bley, Dean of IBSS. It said that, “while we cannot do anything about your inability to return to Suzhou at the moment, your colleagues and I want you to know that we are thinking of you in this difficult time and hope that you may find the content of this package helpful. With our best wishes for your health and that of your family.” The packages full of love were shipped on 8 April, with help of IBSS representatives of Professor Jorg Bley, Dr Eddy Fang and Ms Xianchang (Kelsi) Yu.
Colleagues abroad started to receive the packages from 11 April and were surprised and moved by this secret act. Mr Douglas Shearer, who is currently in the UK, expressed his thankfulness and excitement of receiving the parcel. “This was a very unexpected delivery and from the moment that I opened the parcel, I had a swell of pride to be working at such an amazing place surrounded by such amazing people from all over the world.” Mr Shearer wrote the sentences to all IBSS colleagues. His statements were echoed by many others.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that knows no borders. But with every crisis come opportunities. For the practitioners in education, the opportunity has been to discover and effectively implement new ways of teaching and interacting with students. For all of us as human beings, it was the opportunity to remind ourselves of the value of life and the importance of fellowship. Soon we will reunite on campus in the sunlight.