Youth volunteers launch own version of US Peace Corps

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 March, 2002, 12:00am

The China Youth Volunteer Association (CYVA) is launching its first international mission this year, in what could develop into China's version of the US Peace Corps.

'This first trip will involve sending five volunteers experienced with domestic projects in China to spend six months helping underdeveloped areas of Laos,' association official Guo Zhengguang said.

Mr Guo said Laos was chosen for the association's first project because of the country's need and its proximity to China. He said the Government of Laos, a socialist republic, was especially keen on foreign assistance coming from a communist country.

Despite the small number of participants going to Laos, the association hopes to assist more countries.

'Our dreams, however, will be subject to financial limitations,' Mr Guo said.

'As the CYVA relies on individuals and corporate donations for our domestic and international efforts, there is only so much we can afford.'

While the central Government has lent strong verbal support to the association's initiatives since it was founded in 1999, Mr Guo said that, unlike the US Government-funded Peace Corps, their organisation had not received any financial assistance from Beijing.

The Peace Corps was founded by US president John Kennedy in 1960, and has 7,000 US citizens serving in 70 countries, including China.

The five CYVA volunteers will concentrate their efforts in poor towns and villages around Vientiane teaching English, Chinese and computer use, and work to improve sanitation.

'We will be providing international assistance while fostering a better understanding of China abroad. The experience will empower our volunteers to be an even greater national resource once they return to China,' Mr Guo said.

In addition to activities conducted by provincial branches of the CYVA, the national office assigns more than 3,200 volunteers annually to work as teachers and to improve hygiene standards in some of China's most impoverished areas.