Volunteers are on the frontline of a new world

Updated: 2012-12-05 09:34

By He Na and Peng Yining (China Daily)

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Improving living conditions overseas is work that brings its own rewards, report He Na and Peng Yining.

While most of Liu Zelin's classmates are preparing their theses and searching for jobs, the 24-year-old is experiencing a radically different life in a country far from home.

Liu spends all his free time preparing teaching materials to use during the Chinese classes he gives every day as a volunteer in Uganda.

Volunteers are on the frontline of a new world

Volunteer Lu Hongzhong joins relief work after a severe earthquake in Myanmar in November. [Photo/Provided to China Daily]

"With the growth of economic and cultural exchanges between China and Uganda during recent years, the country has seen a rise in demand for Chinese teachers," said the economics major at Guizhou University of Finance and Economics.

Team leader Liu and his 14 fellow volunteers arrived in the East African state in October and will work there for 12 months, teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture.

Although the work is unpaid, the Chinese government provides living expenses of 200 yuan ($32) a month.

Liu's workload at a middle school in Kampala, Uganda's capital, is heavy and he teaches almost every day. He usually rises at 6 am to make sure he's ready for classes when they start at 7:20 am.

"I enjoy the moment when the students meet us on campus in the morning. When they say hello and talk to us in Mandarin, I feel very proud and it puts me in a good mood at the start of the day," said Liu.

An increasing number of Chinese volunteers have joined overseas missions in recent years.

Since the first five Chinese volunteers traveled to Laos in 2002, nearly 600 have been dispatched to 22 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the Youth Volunteer Work Department of the Communist Youth League of China Central Committee.

"To ensure the best quality, we make high demands on our volunteers and have established a series of strict tests and talent-selection procedures," said Guo Meijian, director of the Youth Volunteer Work Department.

In accordance with the requirements of the recipient countries, the volunteer programs have expanded from language teaching and cultural promotion to embrace a deeper level of training in technological and practical skills.

"The volunteers are all professionals in areas the countries urgently need. They not only contribute to the socio-economic development of recipient countries, but also make a solid contribution to cooperation and friendship and diplomacy," added Guo.

"Our volunteers in Ethiopia helped local farmers to improve their melon-planting methods and have been rewarded by seeing the bumper harvests that followed. They also taught the locals how to build and use the biogas pools that now supply all the household-energy needs. All of this has helped to boost local incomes," said Guo.

Chinese volunteers also helped solve a major problem for farmers in Liberia low rice yields. After a series of tests and investigations, the volunteers identified problems with local methods of planting and breeding the crop. Their suggested improvements, including raising the breeding temperature, have seen yields increase, he added.

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