Chinese Youths Become Worldwide Volunteer Force
While most of China was enjoying a cosy May Day holiday, Zhang Hao from the southern city of Guangzhou (Canton) was busy preparing for his journey to the Seychelles, where he will volunteer as a doctor.
Zhang, a 34-year-old gynecologist with 11 years of professional experience, will stay in the underdeveloped island country in Africa for a year, providing free medical services.
"Doctors are desperately needed in the Seychelles. I hope to go there and try my best to treat local people," he says.
Including Zhang, 18 volunteers -- 14 doctors, one engineering budgeter, one Chinese-language teacher and two music teachers -- have been selected from Guangdong province for this year's "Aiding Seychelles" program under the China Young Volunteers Serving Overseas Plan.
They are among the huge numbers of younger Chinese whose value and contributions to society will be celebrated on the nation's Youth Day, which falls on May 4.
Under the plan initiated in 2002 by the China Communist Youth League (CCYL), the reserve force of the Communist Party of China, young Chinese have flocked to every corner of the world to serve as volunteers.
In developing countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, Chinese volunteers have devoted themselves to services including peacekeeping, language teaching, health care and emergency relief. Between 2005-2011, the Chinese government sent 17,000 volunteers and Chinese-language teachers to 117 countries.
China now has more than 30 million youth volunteers registered in youth leagues at all levels and various social organizations. They have grown into one of the main forces driving public good in the world.
Altogether, 50 volunteers have been allocated to the Seychelles in four batches since 2007, according to Chi Zhixiong, vice secretary of the CCYL Guangdong Provincial Committee.
As a member of the first batch of Seychelles volunteers, Lin Daoxuan is still missed by local residents and often receives letters from the African island. During his one-year volunteering term, Lin performed 500 surgeries and treated more than 1,000 local surgical patients.
The outstanding performances of these volunteers boosted the friendship between China and the Seychelles. They have become "folk ambassadors" for the friendly communications of the two nations, in Chi's view.
As a strong backer for China's volunteering, the nation's government runs award schemes to honor excellent volunteers, many of them on Youth Day, in a bid to further expand its already huge volunteers team.
"China is very strong in sending volunteers abroad as messengers of peace and understanding, and also as a way to strengthen its ability to build strong human, social and economic relations," says Flavia Pansieri, head of the United Nations Volunteers program.
Pansieri notes a number of major events in recent years have raised the profile of volunteering among Chinese, citing 2008 as a particularly important year, when volunteers devoted themselves to massive rescue efforts following the Wenchuan earthquake, and also to naturally happier pursuits at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Statistics shows 1.7 million volunteers across the nation, mostly young students and citizens, were involved during the Games and Paralympic Games.
During the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, an unprecedented 500,000 volunteers gathered in competition venues, streets, tourist resorts and shopping malls, acting as support staff for the event.
For Zhong Xuehong, who served as a volunteer in Guangzhou Asian Games' press center, the experience is something she will treasure for life. "After the games ended, I have kept participating in various volunteering activities with my friends, as a way of giving back to society," Zhong says.
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