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6,000 Young Volunteers 'Go West'
Six thousand young volunteers selected from among nearly 43,000-plus college graduates set out to west China on Sunday to help develop impoverished regions.

The volunteers, the first group of China's Go West Volunteer Program, are assigned to 183 counties in 12 western provinces, autonomous regions as well as central China's Hubei and Hunan provinces, for volunteer service of one or two years.

At the ceremony held at China Centennial Altar in the national capital, more than 300 volunteers vowed to do their best to help locals and serve society.

The volunteers will work in the fields of education, medical care, agriculture and cultural development. At the end of their volunteer work, graduates will be free to decide whether to remain in the west or to seek their fortunes in other regions of the country.

Shi Junfang, 23, a graduate from China Women's College, is going to work in the planning bureau of Baotou city, in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, for two years.

"I am thinking of staying even longer if the job suits me," she said.

Wang Shikai, a law graduate from northeast China's Jilin University, declined the offer to study for master's degree and chose to be a volunteer at the legislative affairs office of Bazhong city, in southwestern China's Sichuan Province.

"I hope to use what I've learned to serve people in the needy and less developed regions. Meanwhile, this will help me to mature and I will never regret this choice," said Wang.

The Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) and the Ministry of Education in June launched the Go West program, which calls for college graduates to provide volunteer services in the western regions, where they are most needed.

Though rich in natural resources, China's western regions are badly in need of human resources, as professionals there account for only 15.5 percent of the total technical force in the country, whereas its population make up 28.8 percent of the national total.

Meanwhile, college graduates are fighting an uphill battle to hunt for jobs this year. Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that 2.12 million college students graduated this year, 620,000 more than last year, due to increasing student enrollments.

"As a program which contributes to the western development strategy, the Go West program will not only advance socio-economic development in the vast region, but also create more new employment opportunities for college graduates," said Zhou Qiang, first secretary of Secretariat of the CYLC Central Committee.

(Xinhua News Agency September 1, 2003)

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