During the past few years, China has not only impressed the world as host of the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games, this year's Shanghai World Expo and the Guangzhou Asian Games, but also by its emergency response to disasters at home and abroad. All these events are remembered, so are the volunteers involved.
Being the host country of the world's sporting showpieces, as well as the World Expo, volunteering in China has flourished. In addition to the 1.1 million volunteers registered in Guangzhou, the latest Asian Games in Guangzhou recruited another 590,000 volunteers from further afield.
Every weekend during the event, about 63,000 volunteers were on duty citywide, providing various kinds of services.
But volunteering is not restricted to just these grand events.
The response to the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008 involved an incredible number of participating volunteers, people who made vital contributions to post-quake relief and reconstruction.
It was estimated that 100,000 people from outside the province were directly involved in volunteering work in the quake-stricken area, in addition to the 1 million volunteers from Sichuan province. Furthermore, the nationwide relief campaigns, including raising relief funds and transporting relief goods, involved the participation of more than 10 million people.
More and more volunteering groups are based on communities, in addition to those attached to the Communist Youth League.
Community volunteers, besides serving some State occasions, such as the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China, are also dedicated to everyday issues, which might seem trivial, but which concern the livelihoods of those in need, such as the elderly and the disabled. They also play a key role in protecting the environment and providing education for disadvantaged groups.
Voluntary organizations are also becoming more professional and as volunteering has developed, support is guaranteed by certain regulations, policies and technical support.
To facilitate development of volunteering, for instance, Beijing and Sichuan have published some regulations to clarify the status, rights and obligations of volunteers, voluntary groups and the targeted beneficiaries.
As for policymaking, the Beijing municipality and some other Chinese cities have introduced policies, which elaborate the government's work in serving, encouraging and organizing volunteers.
With regard to technical support, China is creating an information platform for voluntary organizations.
However, China's voluntary services still need some in-depth development in certain areas.
First, legislation should be drafted for voluntary services. Legislation is currently the best way to encourage and regulate volunteering in China.
Second, China needs to improve the current support system. Efforts should be made to explore how to guide and facilitate volunteering development through policies and financial support.
State-owned enterprises and the private sector should support volunteer programs, as a way of realizing their social responsibilities. As for the public, they should continue to offer their support and participation.
Third, China should create a nurturing environment for voluntary groups. Participation and sustainable development will only be possible with proper management.
To achieve better standards, these voluntary organizations should actively engage in various kinds of exchanges and conduct appropriate training programs.
Last, but not least, volunteer programs should establish close cooperation with government departments, enterprises, social organizations, institutes of higher learning, etc, in order to build a solid foundation for volunteering.
The author is deputy dean of the social development and public policy institute of Beijing Normal University.