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Volunteers reach out to provide community care

China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-12-07 10:00

TAIYUAN — Zhang Qiaofu typically starts her day with a set pattern: At dawn, she rides her electric bike to the house of 89-year-old Zhang Linxian to check whether the curtains in her bedroom have been opened.

If not, she knocks on the door of the senior citizen who lives alone in Yingchun community, just to make sure that she is okay.

This is part of a volunteer program called "curtain action", that aims to ensure the safety of elderly people living alone by observing their drapes from outside their apartments.

Zhang Qiaofu, a volunteer in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, has taken part in this program for a year and a half.

China has 230 million volunteers and 1.34 million volunteer groups, and they are often seen during major international events, emergency rescue operations and community work.

Zhang Qin, a professor at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, said volunteerism has much in common with the traditional Chinese concepts of benevolence and universal love.

The community is one of the most active areas of volunteer work. In the Chaoyangli community in Tianjin municipality — where the first community volunteer organization in China was founded decades ago — more than 70 percent of residents have registered as volunteers.

A number of novel volunteer programs have been rolled out in Chaoyangli, including movie-telling for the visually impaired and daycare for working parents' children during summer vacation.

According to a guideline released this year by the Chinese Young Volunteers Association, volunteers are encouraged to focus on the needs of children, seniors and disabled people in community services, as well as participate in epidemic prevention, environmental protection and spreading knowledge about the law.

As volunteerism gains popularity, elderly people in China are also joining in.

In Haizhu district of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, a group of volunteers has contributed to community services, such as caring for neighbors in need.

The team of more than 140 volunteers with an average age of over 60 is made up of neighborhood residents and retirees.

"Although we are old, we also need a sense of social identity and want to make our own contributions," said 67-year-old Guan Jinxia, who volunteers in Sushe subdistrict.

Yang Gangjian, an official with the subdistrict, said that because they are of similar age and have the same interests, the senior volunteers are more likely to gain the trust of the elderly residents, and this can help make it easier to carry out community work.

A guideline issued last year urged improvement of the incentive policy to encourage social forces to participate in primary-level governance, improve the primary-level volunteer service system, and carry out neighbor-to-neighbor services and interactive exchanges to better meet the needs of residents.

The number of volunteers in China has increased from 2.92 million in 2012 to 217 million in 2021, according to a blue book on China's volunteer service development.

It listed the country's aging population and the hollowing out of rural communities as challenges facing volunteer work.

Zhang Qin suggested guiding more volunteers to elderly care, rural vitalization and other services that urgently need assistance.

"Volunteer services can work together with the government and market institutions to better connect with grassroots communities, thus meeting the needs of the people in a deep and comprehensive manner," Zhang Qin said.


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