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Elderly Woman Devoted to Serving Rail Passengers

Source:China Daily Global Published:2021-05-09 19:17

An elderly woman who uses a walker is always surrounded by people at Zhengzhou Railway Station in the capital of Henan province. She is not a passenger but a volunteer.

"Where is the boarding stop for bus No 18, grandma?" a young passenger asks.

Some passengers approach her asking for portable chargers for their cellphones.

Zuo Chunxiu, 88, is a retiree from the railway station.

She was born in 1933 into a farming family in the village of Dayangge, Hejian county, Henan province. Her father was head of the village committee of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the farmers' association. Her mother was also a CPC member. Zuo's house, in fact, was the office of the committee.

As a child of such a family, Zuo became a helping hand for her parents' activities when she was very young.

Zuo became a CPC member at age 16.

In 1950, she was recruited as a telephone operator by the Zhengzhou Railway Administration, which was founded in March 1949.

In 1963, she served as secretary of the Zhengzhou Railway Station's Communist Youth League, a movement run by the CPC for young Chinese between the ages of 14 and 28.She was assigned to be secretary of a branch of the station's Party committee in 1978.

China began its reform and opening-up that year, and its economy began to take off. There was a large influx of people from North to South China, especially Shenzhen, Guangdong province, which was made an experimental area for the opening-up policy.

"Zhengzhou Railway Station, where the Beijing-Guangzhou and Lanzhou-Lianyungang rail lines cross, was full of the migrant workers lining up for a ticket," Zuo recalled. "Tickets were always quickly sold out."

"The ticket sellers had to be fast at their work so passengers didn't wait for too long," she said.

Zuo organized training programs three times a week to help ticket sellers improve their skills.

Since working at the ticket selling section of the station, Zuo had never taken one day off. When she was off duty, she and some of her colleagues offered free tea to the passengers lined up to buy tickets.

In those days it could take dozens of hours or even a few days to get a rail ticket. Zuo had a first aid box in case any passengers fell ill.

Now, she is amazed by the great changes in China's railway. "Things are getting much better. People get e-tickets in just a few seconds, and some railway stations use facial recognition at the turnstiles for passengers."

Zuo retired in 1989, but she didn't leave Zhengzhou Railway Station. "When I saw the huge crowds of passengers at Spring Festival, I decided to do something for them," she said.

In 1993 she recruited a dozen retired colleagues and formed a team of volunteers in their 60s and 70s. They set up a booth providing information about train schedules and free tea.

Now there are two teams of volunteers at the station.

On Oct 5, 2014, a passenger from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region came to Zuo for information about how to transfer to South China's Hainan province. Looking dejected, the man told Zuo his wife divorced him. Zuo helped him buy a ticket and sat down with him for a chat.

"He showed me his gratitude by dropping to his knees to kowtow and adopted me as his mother," Zuo said with a smile.

Inspired by Zuo, more than 170 people have volunteered to help at the station.

To keep up with the times, the gray-and white-haired men and women are learning to use smartphones, with apps like WeChat, or for e-payment, translations and digital maps.

Before October 2019, the 70th anniversary of her CPC membership, Zuo gave 10,000 yuan ($1,525) to the station's Party committee as her special dues. It was the fifth time she showed her loyalty to the Party by paying a large amount in dues.

"As long as I can walk, I'll come to the station to give a helping hand," she said.

"Serve the people is one of the mottos of CPC members. I don't have much time left, and I'll make every minute count to help passengers."

Editor:Zhao Hanqing