American community director assistant helps foreigners settle in Chengdu

Caption: John O’Connell (left) takes part in community management. (Photo/Courtesy of Tongzilin Community)

Deeply attracted to Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, 71-year-old American John O’Connell decided to settle in the city. Since then, he has become a community director assistant, offering help to foreigners in Tongzilin Community, Wuhou District of Chengdu, Chinanews.com reported on Jan. 10.

Public-spirited O’Connell was named a community director assistant of Tongzilin Community about three months after he settled in the community, where he now lives alongside 4,300 foreigners from over 30 countries and regions including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.

As a community director assistant, O’Connell’s primary role is to help foreigners solve problems they come up against in everyday life, like how to take a bus or use apps such as WeChat and Alipay. Furthermore, O’Connell also explains Chinese law to foreigners in the community, to help them adapt to life in China as quickly as possible.

People can call him anytime, whether they need to find a new apartment, find a school for their children, or figure out legal issues, said O’Connell.

Keen on causes for the public good, O’Connell voluntarily donates blood every month, picks up litter, and actively takes part in various public benefit activities in his spare time. He explained that as this city has given him so much, he wants to repay it in his own way.

“We often see him taking part in public benefit activities,” said Zhang Jiarong, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Tongzilin Community Committee, noting that warm-hearted O’Connell has deeply impressed people in the community, and that his interest in volunteering was an important factor in naming him a community director assistant.

Since O’Connell currently doesn’t know Chinese, he asks his Chinese friends to translate for him. Now, he says that he is trying hard to learn the language, and hopes to master it as soon as possible.

According to Chengdu Economic Daily, O’Connell and his wife came to Chengdu in August 2016, at which point Chengdu was meant to be their first stop on a tour of the whole country. However, the couple fell in love with the city, and quickly decided to settle in Tongzilin Community.

O’Connell found a part-time job not long after they settled in Chengdu, teaching English at an international school, while his wife became a physics teacher in another international school.

“Chengdu is as modern as New York, and it is a pleasant city to live in just like where I’m from in California. More importantly, the people here are very friendly and generous,” said O’Connell, adding that instead of seeing the city as tourists, they wanted to enjoy real Chengdu life.