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Charities in China Need More Assistance

Charity work in China needs more funding, more helping hands and more grassroots charitable organizations at local and rural levels, a senior official recently said.

"We should try our best to secure annual donations totaling 100 billion yuan (US$14.3 billion); about 1 million charity professionals, and 100 million volunteers and social workers; and further development of grassroots and rural charitable organizations," said Wang Zhenyao, head of the Social Welfare and Charity Promotion Department created earlier this month.

"These goals are possible to achieve, as can be seen by the way the Wenchuan quake changed the character and patterns of charity in China," said the official, who had been disaster and relief director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs for eight years before his new appointment.

"Chinese people have shown the world tremendous philanthropic potential with their donations and volunteerism."

This was demonstrated by the fact that 60 billion yuan had been donated for quake relief as of last month. The figure was expected to reach about 100 billion yuan by the end of the year, Wang said, adding: "This is historical."

When Wang set up the country's first charity office three years ago, he aimed for citizens to donate 50 billion yuan annually by 2010.

Last year, citizens and enterprises donated a total of 22.3 billion yuan in cash and in-kind donations -- a 123 percent increase over the previous year, according to a report by the ministry.

The record high for donations after the earthquake has been the result of a growing awareness about charity.

"More orderly charitable activities and more inspired public participation have been cultivated along with charitable systems and policies," he said.

However, there is still a long way to go for people to actualize their philanthropic potential, he added.

In addition, unprecedented public attention has been given to questions of how to most efficiently and effectively use charitable funds through the government and organizations.

"It is time for a major adjustment of charity systems and for a better implementation of our policies," Wang said.

The new department's creation is indicative of the growing importance placed on charitable activities in China.

The new department would manage the welfare lottery, charitable activities, and donations and welfare projects for the elderly, disabled and children. It will draft rules on volunteers' work and develop a nationwide volunteer network.

Wang said his top priority is formulating more transparent and systemized methods, and mapping out donation evaluation standards for monthly and annual appraisals.

"If we have a clear understanding of every process from fundraising to donation use it will cut down on the time used for auditing and monitoring, and leave less room for corruption," he said.

In a talk given to local officials on the development of community-based charitable services, he encouraged them to cultivate grassroots charity organizations.

"They could be small organizations with only a few members encouraging people to help and support their neighbors," he said.

The director had addressed the need to solve the shortage of professionals in the field.

Only 18,000 people work for charitable foundations in China, compared to 1.2 million people in the United States.

"China has enough love and caring but does not have enough well-developed channels for people to express and show their love and caring," he said.

When he visited quake-affected areas on May 15, the director saw how thousands people from all over the country came forth to save lives and rebuild homes.

"In them, I see the future of the country's charity work."

He pointed out the size of the country's population is a boon, rather than a bane, to the country's philanthropic potential.

"Any major difficulty becomes minor when divided by 1.3 billion people. And any small donation becomes a tremendous contribution when multiplied by that number."

(China Daily September 6, 2008)

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