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The motto, "Treat any elderly person the way you do your parents, and love any child the way you do your own," from ancient Chinese sage Confucius, encourages thoughtfulness and volunteerism in creating a peaceful and harmonious living environment for all.

Today's International Volunteer Day promotes the same spirit and extends its meaning in a far broader sense, calling on people to extend their love, care and wisdom to make life easier for others by doing whatever they can for nothing in their spare time.

In the good old days, when people had no sense of doing voluntary work, the slogan "serve the people" was a reminder to all that they had an obligation to help those in need.

In addition, the traditional concept of regarding it as a pleasure to assist others helped forge a close relationship between colleagues and neighbours in a community. Most would help others when they were in urgent need of aid.

In this sense, there was never a lack of volunteerism among Chinese , although it is only in recent decades that the modern concept of volunteerism became known to the public and volunteer organizations began to sprout up.

There are more than 75,000 volunteer organizations and some 80 million volunteers providing free services for those in need in different walks of life.

About 1 million university students go to poverty-stricken and natural-disaster affected rural areas to provide voluntary services to local residents every summer holiday.

Yet, many more volunteers are needed, and every citizen needs to develop an awareness of volunteerism so that they will not hesitate to act when required to extend a helping hand.

The fact that the Beijing Blood Centre called for more volunteers to donate blood to meet urgent demand in city hospitals at the weekend suggests the lack of awareness of volunteerism among some residents.

The ever-deteriorating environment nationwide calls for not only more severe penalties on polluters but also heavier pressure and more action from voluntary organizations and volunteers to hold them to account for discharging untreated sewage or solid waste.

With an elderly population of about 100 million by the end of 2005 that is expected to reach 400 million by the end of 2040, community volunteers will be in great demand to help aged people with their practical needs.

Thousands of volunteers will be recruited for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. This will be an opportunity for the largest group of volunteers to make their contributions to this world sports event, and also for the concept of volunteerism to gain further acceptance among Chinese people.

(China Daily December 5, 2006)

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