From impoverished families to victims suffering winter blizzards, tens of millions of the needy in China have received government-funded alms either in cash or informs of food and clothes for the Spring Festival, which falls on Jan. 29.
The annual government-funded charity program, which aims at "sending warmth and love" to the needy in the Chinese Lunar New Year, is the world's largest in terms of the number of beneficiaries, and has been affirmed by the World Federation of Trade Unions as China's contribution to the world's poverty relief.
"The alms of staple foods as well as meat and eggs are really a timely gift. Without it, I would have felt ashamed to have nothing decent on the festive table," said Huang Zhenhua, a laid-off factory worker in Shanghai, who is making preparations for the festival.
The jobless worker, living on the government's minimum living allowance in China's most modernized metropolis, has less than 125U.S. dollars of family income a month.
The national charity program usually starts one month earlier than the Spring Festival, the most important time of a year for Chinese, which features family reunion and praying for peace and harmony.
Launched by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) over a dozen years ago, the annual charity program has been extended by Chinese governments at all levels over the years, aiming to give care and material support for some 60 million victims struggling in regions hit by natural disasters every year,20 million urbanites on the government's minimum living allowance and 75 million rural residents in absolute poverty and extremely low income.
"Aiding the needy has always been a traditional Chinese virtue. The Spring Festival alms program embodies a combination of the virtue and the political ideology of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC)," said Lu Xiaowen, a research fellow with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
He said that the government program has worked effectively to call on people from all walks of life to aid the needy.
In December last year, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao took the lead in making donations held by central authorities and the headquarters of the army in the "sending warmth and love" drive.
Over 240 million yuan (US$30 million) of funds as well as food, quilts and clothes raised from the donations nationwide have been allocated to over 20 million people so far this year, according to civil affairs departments statistics.
The ACFTU alone appropriated 45 million yuan (US$5.6 million) of charity funds in the Spring Festival alms, and has been sponsoring various donations. The organization now has a membership of 134 million in more than 1.713 million primary trade union organizations.
Lin Yu, a ACFTU member in Shanghai said that she gave out seven pieces of clothes in the donation. "By doing so, I got the feeling that I am paying something back to society."
Xia Xiaowen, an employment service official in west China's Chongqing Municipality said that he was impressed each time he participated in organizing the local Spring Festival alms program.
(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2006)