China backs development of volunteer service organizations

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2016-07-23 07:45:45

The central government has vowed to support the growth of non-profit volunteer service organizations (VSO) with financial and registration assistance. To encourage more VSOs to register, local authorities were asked to review their requirements, in terms of registered capital, full-time employee numbers and work place, according to a joint guideline issued by eight government departments Monday.

There are more than 180,000 VSOs, supported by over 66 million volunteers in China, while only 25,000 VSOs had registered with their local civil affairs authority, according to official statistics.

The guideline also called on local authorities to outsource social services to VSOs, including work related to poverty reduction, elderly care, disaster relief and medical assistance.

An Shaohua, head of Xinjiang Blue Sky Rescue, an earthquake rescue team established in 2011, welcomed the guideline and is registering the rescue with Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region civil affairs department.

"Registration will enable us to bid for government-funded social service programs," said An, who was involved in the Nepal earthquake rescue mission last year.

Funding is the biggest challenge for the team, which has more than 300 volunteers who share the cost of training and earthquake rescue, said An.

Social problems are emerging in China as it transitions from a planned economy to a market economy, and the spirit of volunteering could help the situation, said Deng Guosheng, deputy director of the NGO Research Institute under Tsinghua University.

Chinese lag far behind their foreign peers in terms of donations and volunteer services, said Deng, adding that the guideline will encourage local governments to roll out more measures to encourage and support VSOs.

Liu Fengmei's organization, Shanyixing, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 10,000 village doctors and benefited more than 10 million villagers since its founding five years ago, is set to gain from the new guideline, too.

Shanyixing wants to explore avenues of funding to support its online and offline courses, which both need personnel and financial support, said Liu.

The government now understands the important roles civil organizations play and rather than preventing their participation, as in the past, it is supporting them, said Li Yunfeng, captain of Beijing Ren Ai Rescue Team, who just returned from flood-hit Macheng City in central China's Hubei Province.

The team sourced and distributed 6,000 kg of rice, 1,250 kg of flour and 200 bottles of oil to villagers in Shunhe Township following record rainfall.

Li said the supervision and management of VSOs must be improved, as expounded in the guideline.

When disasters occur, many volunteers flock to help, however, without coordination their efforts may not be helping those most in need, said Li.

VSOs must register and define a clear management hierarchy to ensure efficiency, said Li.

"When using lives to save lives we must be professional," said An. "We cannot have rescuers being rescued by others."

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