SHANGHAI - The country's first volunteers' alliance between multinational firms was established in Shanghai on Friday, to mark the 23rd International Volunteer Day.
The Make A Difference Alliance, initiated by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, is designed to encourage firms and their employees to organize charitable activities and campaigns across China.
The alliance said its first project, Safeguarding the Health of Rural Children in the Earthquake Zone, will look to improve the quality of community-led health initiatives for children under 5 in the 15 communities worst hit by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.
It will be run in association with UK-based charity Save the Children, and continue until the end of next year.
Li Ping, director of corporate and child rights with Save the Children, said the project will provide medical supplies to the communities, and train local volunteers in children's healthcare and nutrition.
It will also include a series of "disaster risk reduction" training programs to make people more aware of the risks of natural disasters and how to respond to them, he said.
"The alliance is a good platform to encourage more companies to support reconstruction efforts in the areas affected by the earthquake. I hope it can bring help to those who need it most," he said.
David Fu, director of corporate affairs at Johnson & Johnson Medical China, the first company to sign up for the project, said: "Foreign firms have always played an important role in corporate citizenship. It is very important for them to practice social responsibility, and spreading the volunteerism message is very much part of that."
As well as providing sanitary items and medical devices, Johnson & Johnson will send its staff as volunteers to quake-hit areas to help teach local people about preventative care, he said.
"We are always aware of our responsibility to contribute to and improve the world around us, and we sincerely hope that this alliance will mean that more help is given to those in need," Fu said.
Brenda Foster, president of AmCham Shanghai, said: "We hope more multinational firms join the alliance to help promote the culture of volunteerism and share best practices on community outreach activities in China."
Members of AmCham Shanghai and their employees have donated almost 400 million yuan ($58 million) in cash, goods and services to relief efforts in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, she said.
The chamber will also act as a facilitator for new members looking to launch their own employee volunteer programs, Foster said.
"Our goal is to advance corporate social responsibility and harmonious social development," she said.