Since the International Year of Volunteers in 2001, there has been a heightened collective recognition of the economic and social value of voluntary action in China. The enhanced acknowledgment of the benefits of volunteerism, both for society and the individual volunteer, have led to stronger Government commitments to support its development.
The Beijing 2008 Olympics, with its Volunteer Programme, represented a unique chance to strengthen international cooperation to build capacity, infrastructure and link volunteerism with development goals.
The “Strengthening Volunteerism for Development in China through the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games” project was a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), Beijing Youth League (BYL), Beijing Volunteer Federation (BVF) and, until the end of the Games, the Beijing Olympic Games Volunteer Work Coordination Group Office (BOGVWCGO).
Environmental volunteering was promoted widely by the project and pilot volunteer-driven environmental awareness projects were established to show how volunteers can advance environmental goals.
Before and during the Beijing Olympics, environmental awareness was advocated through volunteerism, enhanced by the involvement of communities and civil society organizations in support of the Green Olympics concept.
“Volunteering for the environment” opportunities were created for a total of 5,150 volunteers on a series of activities reaching tens of thousands of citizens directly, and millions through media coverage.
Through the environmental campaign “Save Energy and Reduce Pollution – Volunteer Action!”, 40 university volunteers and the Project Management Office educated an estimated 2,000 Beijing citizens on environmental issues by displaying environmental messages on place cards, a ‘carbon calculator,’ life size Olympic mascots, and by distributing informational brochures with daily life environmental tips.
An estimated 4,000 volunteers spread environmental messages to over 50,000 Beijing citizens as part of “Everyone is a Green Olympics Volunteer” advocacy events. Working together with the BYL District Department, 4,000 “City Olympic volunteers” serving at 100 volunteer information stands across the capital were trained to provide green living tips and to distribute informational brochures to the public.
“You and I Welcome the Green Olympics” coordinated environmental advocacy events on Earth Day (22 April 2008) to spread environmental messages to thousands more Beijing citizens. And 50,000 project-designed Beijing Olympic venue maps featuring green tips were distributed to Olympic Games visitors at 500 Olympic City Volunteer Stands. The foldable maps, available in Chinese, French and English, presented cartoon images of ten tips on how individuals could be environmentally friendly during their stay in Beijing.
The 30-second “Everyone is a Green Olympic Volunteer” Public Service Announcement reached a domestic audience of over 100 million citizens. The high quality PSA commercial featured volunteers “volunteering for the environment” by taking daily life environmentally conscious decisions such as choosing green transport.
Building on the fruitful experience of the Green Olympic campaign, environmental volunteerism was strongly promoted after the Games through successful cooperation with environmental organizations like the Jane Goodall Institute – Roots and Shoots Programme.
The Volunteer Beijing Green Partnership, aiming to enhance cooperation and resource sharing among local, national and international organizations with a common interest in the environment, was initiated and carried on by BVF after the project. The Partnership is already operational through several activities.
A green-themed website (www.bjgreen.org) was designed to promote joint activities and partners’ initiatives, providing a platform for information and resource sharing, and encouraging the public to commit to a more sustainable lifestyle through an online interactive pledge.