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Cablegate: Volunteerism in Shanghai

VZCZCXRO2561
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHGH #0337/01 2310034
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180034Z AUG 08
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7077
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2041
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1341
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 1337
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1312
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1486
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 1150
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 7652

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SHANGHAI 000337

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI ELAB CH
SUBJECT: VOLUNTEERISM IN SHANGHAI

(U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified and for official
use only. Not for distribution outside of USG channels.

1. (SBU) Summary. Despite ample opportunities for people to
volunteer, local volunteer organizations still have problems
attracting people. Interlocutors blamed the lack of interest in
volunteering to the absence of legislation on volunteers, the
lack of a system to track someone's volunteer experience and to
the lack of flexibility in many volunteer programs. However,
both local governments and the central government are
"conservatively encouraging" people to volunteer for
non-controversial programs in the environmental, health and
educational field. End Summary

Shanghai Volunteer Association
------------------------------
2. (SBU) In mid-July, Poloff and FSN Political Assistant met
with representatives of the Shanghai Volunteer Association (SVA)
to discuss their activities. SVA is a governmental organization
and was established in July 1997. It plays a leading role in
organizing and coordinating volunteer activities for large
official events in Shanghai such as 2007 Special Olympics, 2008
Beijing Olympic Games and Shanghai World Expo 2010. According
to SVA Office Manager Du Guowei, Shanghai now has over one
million registered volunteers from five SVA branch organizations
including Shanghai Family Volunteer Association, Shanghai Worker
Volunteer Association, Shanghai Community Volunteer Association,
Shanghai Youth Volunteer Association and Shanghai Professional
Volunteer Group. Over 80 percent of the volunteers are
university students. The SVA's primary responsibility,
according to Du, is to provide work plan, management service and
guidance to the city's volunteer programs. In addition, it is
in charge of volunteer recruitment, registration, training,
personnel dispatch and job performance evaluation. It often
recruits people at college campuses. In order to attract more
people to participate in their volunteer programs, the SVA
provides registered volunteers with a bank card that gives its
users discounts at various venues in Shanghai.

Volunteers Wanted
-----------------
3. (SBU) According to Du, in comparison to other cities,
Shanghai's volunteer programs are more developed. However, it
has not been easy finding volunteers. Du blamed this on the
lack of laws governing volunteers and also the lack of a record
keeping system to track the work of volunteers. Therefore, the
SVA is currently creating an online system for outside users to
check individual volunteer's work record. Du added that the
Shanghai Municipal Government plans on introducing guidelines on
volunteer activities in 2009 in preparation for Shanghai World
Expo 2010. Du assessed that the SVA is in its "infant period"
and more needed to be done to develop the organization. He
noted in particular that the SVA did not have much interaction
with the private sector and asked for the Consulate's assistance
in making connections to U.S. companies.

More Flexibility Needed
-----------------------
4. (SBU) During a luncheon with CSR Manager of AmCham Shanghai
Office Oliver Ye on July 15, Ye noted that it is difficult for
full time employees to participate in government run volunteer
programs. These programs often lack flexibility. For example,
for one government volunteer program, volunteers were asked to
participate in two two-day training courses during the week.
This is impossible for many workers and most volunteers are
university students. Nevertheless, he is trying to find way
opportunities for USG companies to participate in volunteer
programs. He also noted that volunteers in China like to only
participate in one-time activities and do not develop long-term
relations with the organization they volunteer for.

Non-Governmental Volunteering is "Conservatively Encouraged"
--------------------------------------------- ---------------
5. (SBU) According to Jim Zhai, the founder of a Shanghai-based
labor NGO called Shanghai Hua Guang Youth Employment Service
Center, the number of opportunities for people to volunteer with
non-governmental organizations is also increasing. He noted
that local and central governments are "conservatively
encouraging" people to volunteer but only on safe issues. The
government encourages people to volunteer for NGOs and
governmental programs that assist the elderly, protect the
environment, and help people with HIV/AIDS. However, the
government pays little attention to disadvantaged groups like
migrant workers. In addition, most labor NGOs are subjected to
registration restrictions and strict supervision. He did not

SHANGHAI 00000337 002 OF 002


think that recent earthquake in Sichuan will have a long-term
impact on the number of people volunteering for programs. One
long-term trend he sees is that fewer people are interested in
volunteering for large programs such as the Special Olympics,
instead many people are looking for more complex volunteering
opportunities and are seeking out volunteer opportunities at
NGOs. This is especially true among university students. He
sees this as a positive trend and believes that volunteering at
NGOs help students to develop a better understanding of civil
society.

Comment
-------
6. (SBU) As social services decrease in China, NGOs are taking
on more of the burden of helping those in need. But to provide
those services, NGOs need volunteers as well as financial
support. Hopefully interest in social NGOs like Mr. Zhai's NGO
will continue to grow and help to foster a more diverse civil
society.
JARRETT

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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