VI-6 Question: China is in the process of launching the Young Volunteers Overseas Program. Why? What has been done so far? What kind of work will these volunteers do?
A: Many countries have sent volunteers overseas. Such programs run by the United States, the European countries, Japan and South Korea have had an impact overseas. Now that China has become richer and stronger, it has started the Young Volunteers Overseas Program.
The program was inaugurated in May 2002. The first destination country was Laos, and was followed by Myanmar, Thailand and Ethiopia. By September 2006, China had sent 109 young volunteers overseas to work in areas such as Chinese language education, traditional Chinese medicine, agriculture and technology, physical education, computer training and international rescue.
The rationale behind the Young Volunteers Overseas Program is:
First, civilian diplomacy has long been part of our national policy. Traditionally, we have a history of civilian diplomacy with Asian and African countries.
Second, many Asian and African countries, where the young volunteers work, are developing countries that need friendly assistance.
Third, per-capita GDP in China has reached US$1,000. Countries with this living standard can afford to send volunteers overseas. China would like to contribute to world development by sending friendly young volunteers to countries with different social systems, ideologies and religious beliefs.
Fourth, the Young Volunteers Overseas Program will give young persons a chance to expand their horizons, to learn about other cultures, to cultivate team spirit, and to practice their skills.
Young volunteers are recruited by the Chinese Young Volunteers Association. They usually spend a half-year to two years in friendly developing countries, working to improve the social welfare of these countries. Since 2005, the Young Volunteer Overseas Program has become part of the foreign aid program of the Chinese Government.
In the future, the Young Volunteers Overseas Program will be gradually expanded into more countries and more fields. For instance, China plans to send 100 volunteers to Africa in 2007, and 300 more in the next three years, not only to English speaking countries such as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, but also to French speaking countries as well. The services delivered will also be more diversified.