Ye's Legal Clinic is the first choice when people in the community of Yangjiamen in Zhejiang province have disputes with their neighbors, from minor differences to major financial disputes.
Initiated five years ago by retired local judges Ye Zhu'an and Xia Jichu, the clinic has now expanded to four retired judges and two lawyers and has so far helped resolve over 180 community disputes.
"Residents in the community can receive free legal advice, consultations and assistance anytime they encounter dilemmas or troubles," said Cao Jiankui, Party secretary of the community, which is part of Tongxiang city.
Disputes are classified into categories such as minor, ordinary or serious. In complicated cases, the volunteers will come to the site of the dispute, explain the legal details and suggest the community or township authorities work together to meditate such disputes before they escalate to a more serious level.
Ye's clinic is just one of the 13 volunteering community service stations Tongxiang has launched over the past decade.
The city, by integrating resources from communities, volunteers and social organizations, has tapped a unique way of selecting professionals and experts for grassroots dispute-solving.
"In such ways, miscommunication is greatly avoided, rumors can be dispelled and time needed for solving disputes shortened. Residents now regard such mechanisms as the most convenient, reliable, ethical and authoritative way to solve their disputes," Cao said.
The community, with seniors accounting for over 20 percent of its population, also launched Tongxiang's first private caring service center for the aging population in 2009.
For example, in 2013, the center launched and promoted a "caring doorbell" system, enabling those "old empty-nesters" and senior citizens with disabilities to get help as soon as they press a button.
In December, Yangjiamen was listed and awarded for its innovative community efforts by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
"In terms of community governance, more such innovative and characteristic mechanisms should be promoted to push forward the construction of 'happy homes' and communities in the future," said an official with the Jiaxing bureau of civil affairs, where Tongxiang is located.
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