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Thousands of Chinese students to volunteer in poor communities
18 April 2006

Beijing, China: A nationwide project will send 6,500 university graduates to serve the poor western countryside as volunteers this year.

The volunteers will work in poverty-stricken counties for one or two years to help develop education, health care, agriculture, culture and other sectors.

The new batch of volunteers will join last year's group, who are midway through their two-year stints, bringing the number of university graduates serving the west during 2006-07 to about 10,000.

Co-sponsored by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China and three ministries, the project aims to introduce university graduates to the western regions of the country and alleviate the increasing unemployment problem.

Over the past three years, at least 40,000 university graduates have served the west as volunteers, and 392 poverty-stricken counties have benefited.

The project has provided guidance to university students faced with the decision of where to work whether to stay in urban areas or move to the rural regions, said Yang Yue, deputy director of the project's leading team, yesterday in Beijing.

"It has also fostered a group of young people who understand the country's conditions and acquire the capability of hard work," Yang said.

Using the project as a model, a few provinces and municipalities have kick-started their own projects by sending volunteers to the western China.

Official statistics show that, including the 9,000 volunteers sent by local projects, a total of 20,000 young people are working in the country's poor areas, a growth of 4,000 on 2004.

This year, volunteers are expected to work in sectors including education, health care, agriculture, and legal aid.

During their term, the volunteers will receive a 600-yuan (US$75) monthly allowance, insurance and a health check-up.

The volunteers will also get assistance to land jobs or pursue further study when they finish their service.

The project has helped more than 4,500 of 7,200 volunteers find jobs after their service in western China.

To encourage more university graduates to get involved in the project, the organizers are strengthening their efforts to assist volunteers in finding employment afterwards.

"We will set up a database of these volunteers, gather employment information for them, provide professional training, and set up a fund for those who want to start their own businesses in the west," said Wang Xuefeng, an official with the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China.