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Volunteers play important roles in the community

By Zhuan Ti (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-27 07:50

Volunteers have played an important part in making Zhangjiagang a better place to live.

To date, more than 23,000 people have registered as volunteers in the city for 630 groups that provide services to the community.

For instance, under the support of the government, Shi Xiaojiao set up the Happy Photography group along with a few friends who shared the same passion. The group now consists of more than 60 amateur and professional photographers.

"I'm glad to be a volunteer, as helping others benefits myself as well," Shi said. One of the main activities for the group is taking pictures of centenarians and their families in the city, something that Shi said he takes great pleasure in doing.

The city's volunteer association oversees all of the groups and has launched official accounts on WeChat and Sina Weibo to encourage more involvement from the public.

Zhangjiagang's volunteer services focus on a "partner plan," which was initiated in 2012. The plan, which integrates government departments, volunteers and businesses, has normalized and improved volunteer and charity work in the city.

During the past three years, nearly 200 enterprises have participated in the plan and donated 8.2 million yuan ($1.32 million) to more than 300 charity projects.

One example of support from private enterprises is a free bus service, which since 2013 has been provided to help transport the city's migrant workers to their hometowns ahead of the Spring Festival, benefiting more than 1,400 people.

The city's youth volunteers regularly accompany students who are children of migrant workers to tour the city and watch movies.

Since the city's many volunteers carry out a variety of activities on a daily basis, the local government has taken steps to ensure their safety by cooperating with China Life Insurance Group to provide registered volunteers with free accident insurance and health insurance coverage.

Qian Xueying, 44, is the leader of the city's largest volunteer group, which has 500 members committed to preventing drowning accidents and improving the ecological environment of parks.

"A few years ago, drowning accidents often happened. So some residents organized a volunteer group in 2013 to patrol around the lakes and rivers every summer and I was one of them," Qian said. "Since we started the group, no accidents have occurred during the past two years. Sometimes we feel like heroes because we are saving lives," she added.

In addition to patrolling popular swimming areas at nearby lakes, Qian's group also carries out activities in six parks every Sunday afternoon to collect litter and promote environmental protection.

Qian, a wedding photographer, has spent most of her leisure time in volunteer activities. Her husband and daughter are now also volunteers.

Wang Fei, the deputy chief of the city's volunteers' association, said voluntary service has become a daily routine for many locals in the city. "It is hard work, but it's worthwhile," he said.

The association has launched an incentive system to encourage public participation. Volunteers are given prizes according to their service time. The prizes include free physical examinations, bus passes, and tickets to tourism sites and movies.

The association regularly holds events such as sports meetings, talent contests and birthday parties to boost unity among the volunteers.

Volunteering is regarded by many as a symbol of a city's civilization. Zhangjiagang's success in volunteer work has garnered much attention from other cities keen on establishing similar programs to strengthen their own communities. From October to February, the city welcomed 159 delegations from other cities to inspect the volunteer activities.


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