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Volunteers honoured for services
( 2003-12-05 23:56) (China Daily)

Volunteers have played a bigger role in community building and social development, Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju said on Friday in Beijing.

"An increasing number of volunteers have taken the lead to shoulder more responsibility to help promote social development,'' Li said at a conference to commemorate the International Volunteer Day on Friday.

More than 290 social organizations and 682 individuals were honoured at the meeting for their voluntary efforts.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the meeting to pay tribute to the volunteers.

"Far away from the spotlight, there are millions of generous individuals who, around the clock and around the world, roll up their sleeves and volunteer to help in any way they can,'' Annan said in the letter.

Working alone or as part of an organized movement, these dedicated and courageous individuals are important partners in the quest for a better, fairer and safer world, Khalid Malik, UN resident co-ordinator in China, said at the meeting.

China has more than 75,000 social service organizations and more than 16 million individuals have engaged in voluntary works, said Xu Ruixin, president of the China Social Work Association.

Many non-government organizations have focused their efforts on cultivating good citizenship, building a caring and harmonious society, promoting volunteer services, fostering respect for human rights and the rule of law and enhancing family harmony, Xu said.

An anti-crime group in the Fengyuan neighbourhood of Guangzhou's Liwan District, for example, is made up entirely of volunteers over the age of 60.

Anyone who looks suspicious is questioned. If necessary, the elderly patrol members shout for help.

"We do not try to chase or tackle criminals. But when they know we're watching them, they are more reluctant to start trouble,'' said Chen Jieyu, a team leader.

Neighbourhood committees, grassroots bodies for self government, education and services, also play bigger role in community building, Xu said.

Committee members are selected by local residents whom they serve on a voluntary basis.

There are approximately 115,000 neighbourhood committees in China's urban centres which help with a wide range of functions, including helping people find jobs, delivering government subsidies, security, entertainment, public hygiene and helping settle family disputes.

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