Grave sweepers get helping hand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2009, 12:00am

This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Bo Wei Young Volunteer Service Team - a batch of volunteers who help out at the Guangzhou Crematorium during the Ching Ming Festival. Their work has been named the 'Top Ten Most Influential Events in the 20th Anniversary of Volunteer Service in Guangdong Province'.

The team comprises students from South China University of Technology and was established in 1988. They help people who visit the graveyard from April 4 to 12 every year.

Volunteers are divided into four groups. Each group is assigned different duties which include cleaning, broadcasting, promotion of environmental protection, and survey work.

It is estimated that about 200,000 people pay respects to their ancestors at the crematorium every day during the festival. It is very important to have volunteers to maintain order.

They face many difficulties. Many of them had a sore throat after shouting out instructions throughout the day and their eyes were all red as they patrolled the smoke-filled environment.

Lv Zhijie was one of the volunteers at the crematorium. He had to give up his trip to Shenzhen, where his family lived, to join the voluntary programme.

'After reading a report about the voluntary service in the newspaper last year, I immediately wanted to join. My parents were very supportive of me taking part in the activity,' he said.

Another volunteer, Yu Ruobing, said they were very nervous because people complained frequently.

'We're expected to clean the altar very quickly. If not, the people waiting for their turn would complain. But, if I took away the candles which were still burning, some would say it was an insult to the dead. I really don't know how to deal with such a situation,' she said.