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Volunteers in west China win international acclaim
Updated: 2004-07-05 21:24

Some might say it would not do kids much good if they have a layman to teach them every year, but what these voluntary green hands are doing has won them acclaim from the international society.

US-based Amway Corporation recently donated 500,000 yuan (about US$60,240) to 30 volunteers - all graduates from the elite Fudan University in Shanghai who are to start teaching in the western provinces of Ningxia and Yunnan this year.

The money would cover these volunteers' living expenses and help upgrade school facilities in the two needy provinces, said Amway Corporation Board Chairman Steve Van Andel.

Van Andel said he was moved by the young people's zeal and hoped the donation would help them translate this enthusiasm into concrete moves that would eventually lift some children out of poverty.

This is the largest sum the east China university has received from a multinational firm since it started to send volunteers to the western regions in 1999, according to school officials.

Earlier this year, Amway invested more than 3 million yuan ( some US$360,000) to 88 volunteers from 18 provinces and municipalities nationwide, including graduates from the prestigious Qinghua University based in Beijing.

A World Bank report suggests that investment in education has topped all other investment - including investment in the scopes of telecommunication, agricultural technologies, road construction, power and water resources - in relieving the want and need in China's countryside.

In the mid-1990s, a group of college graduates volunteered to teach in rural schools in the country's western areas on their own initiative, hoping to help the school dropouts there back to school.

Their move has won support from the Ministry of Education and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China in recent years and escalated into an annual "Go West" program.

Last year, 6,000 young volunteers selected from among nearly 44,000 college graduates went to western China to contribute to the development of impoverished regions under the program. The number of applicants has risen to 50,000 this year, according to sources with the Ministry of Education.

While some will be voluntary teachers, others are expected to work in the fields of public health, agro-sciences, poverty reduction and youth work management for a year or two.

When their voluntary mission is over, they will decide themselves whether to remain in the west or to seek career development in any other regions of China, with the first-hand knowledge and experience they have acquired.

Officials say to "go west" has become a top option for a large number of college and university graduates in the recent two years as competition heats up in the job market.

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