Wang Xinfeng: a well-known taxi driver in Beijing

China Plus Published: 2019-03-13 10:22:23
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Hello and welcome to Selfie. In this episode, I will tell you stories of two people from very different walks of life: one is a veteran-turned taxi driver in his forties, while the other, 27, works for a world-famous consulting company. So why do we draw a parallel between the two and bring their stories together? It's because both of them have devoted their time and effort in volunteering, and represent two phases of volunteerism in China.

"You call it volunteering, but personally I think it's just part of my job. All the so-called volunteer services are just some stories that happened during my daily work."

Wang Xinfeng: a well-known taxi driver in Beijing

Wang Xinfeng offers free ride to elderly people in need since 2005. [File photo provided to China Plus]

Our first guest today is Wang Xinfeng, who used to be a taxi driver in Beijing. Wang has now become head of a team at Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur.

"My name is Wang Xinfeng. I joined Beijing Shouqi Taxi Company in 2005. Before that I served in the army."

Wang and his colleagues have built up a team of volunteers who give free rides to elderly people, autistic children, and people with mobility problems. The team is named after Wang Xinfeng, which also means "new Lei Feng" in Chinese.

"Although Wang is younger than me, he is my idol. He is my bro and my role model. He is the leader of our company's Xinfeng Team. The mission of the Team is to follow the example of Lei Feng and provide voluntary services."

Lei Feng, who died in 1962, is a household name in China. Known as China's cultural icon of altruism, the young soldier built up a reputation of carrying out selfless deeds to help others. More than 50 years after his death, some complain that this kind of altruistic spirit has gradually faded in the country. But Wang and his teammates are proving that the spirit of Lei Feng is still alive and well. In fact, some people call them "Lei Feng."

"Seniors in their eighties just call us Lei Feng. One old lady in her 80s used to go to the hospital to see her husband, who was 90-years-old at the time. For years, my teammates and I gave free rides to her - until her husband passed away. When he was approaching his end, we went to the hospital to see him. He couldn't recognize his family members, but when his wife whispered in his ear, that 'Lei Feng is here', he opened his eyes and held my hand. So you see, people of the old generation usually call us Lei Feng."

Wang Xinfeng: a well-known taxi driver in Beijing

Wang Xinfeng offers free ride to elderly people in need since 2005. [File photo provided to China Plus]

Wang Xinfeng has been collecting contact information for people who need help since 2005. He writes it in a small notebook, which even today has not yet gone digital. He often checks his notebook to see if anyone is due for a doctor's appointment, and if they are, he will make a phone call and offer a ride. This habit began about 14 years ago.

"In the early days, when I had just become a taxi driver, I met an old couple in front of Youyi Hospital. They looked like they weren't sure whether to hail or not, so I stopped and picked them up. They weren’t like other passengers, who sit at ease, they sat rigidly, nervously staring at the meter. I was told that they had never taken a taxi before; they always took a bus to the hospital. This time they’d hailed a taxi because they were so tired. Before we arrived at the destination, the old couple decided to get out because of a traffic jam. So I paused the meter and persuaded them to sit and relax. When we arrived, the old lady took out a paper purse and counted out some small change. On impulse, I told her this ride was free. She couldn't believe it, and I repeated it was free. She invited me to have some tea at her home to express her gratitude. I refused and left. I didn't write down their contact information as it was the first time I’d done it."

"Since then, I realized that not everyone in Beijing is rich; some old people cannot afford taxi fares, so I began to pay attention to the seniors, especially those who tried to hail taxis around hospitals. I used to live close to Youyi Hospital, so I often drove around the area. When I gave rides to some seniors who went to the hospital on their own, I would write down their contact information."

Wang says sometimes it's heartbreaking to check his small notebook because it sometimes reminds him of those who have died. That's because so many people that Wang helped were old and sick. Some of them passed away, and this he would find out when they stopped answering his phone calls.

Wang Xinfeng's deeds inspired his colleagues. They built the Xinfeng Team in 2011 to help more people. Wang says they never planned any volunteer services in advance; but during their taxi driving they just met people who really needed help, and spontaneously decided to help them.

"In 2012, the principal of an autistic rehabilitation school took my taxi. I asked if they needed any help. I suggested that our team could take their students to do some activities outside the school, as most of their training was done in the school. Once I initiated the plan, my teammates all agreed immediately, like 'Sure, we can do it.' So we took these autistic children to the Museum of Natural History. A dozen taxis took part in it. Thanks to our efforts, the local authorities and other volunteer organizations now know about the school and have joined hands to care for these special needs children."

Wang adds that he often receives phone calls from taxi drivers who want to join the Xinfeng Team. He believes many taxi drivers have good intentions to help other people, but he never tries to force them.

"Driving a taxi is a hard job. We earn our bread and butter through one ride after another. You'd definitely lose out financially if you didn't charge a taxi fare. I am not calling on all taxi drivers to offer free rides. I mean, just follow your heart. If you find someone is in difficulties, and you're willing to help him or her and therefore bear the economic loss, you can just do it."

Wang Xinfeng: a well-known taxi driver in Beijing

Wang Xinfeng takes on a new role as a team chief of Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur division in 2015. [File photo provided to China Plus]

In 2015, Wang Xinfeng shifted from the taxi section to the Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur division. He also took on a new role as a team chief. But his sense of mission remains the same.

"If your goal is simply to finish a ride and make money, what you gain through it will be very little; if you work devotedly, you will make many friends, and many touching stories will happen... In the past few years, we've gained recognition in the city. People from all walks of life have heard our name. The recognition will inspire you to cope with working pressures in life."

When he was asked about the future, Wang shared his hopes and dreams with us.

"I would like to see smoother traffic, and relationships between passengers and taxi drivers become friendlier. That's just what I'm looking forward to seeing."

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