Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 2 News List

President wants volunteer force

DEVOTION Chen Shui-bian said a strong volunteer base is the most effective tool the government has in its battle to contain the SARS epidemic and other disasters

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday appealed to people to give up a little bit of their personal time and devote it to volunteer efforts, saying that this is the most effective way of helping the government to conquer the rampant SARS epidemic.

"The idea can be described as a `bank of time' (時間銀行)," Chen said yesterday during his weekly televised talk. "If everyone can contribute a small part of their working days toward doing volunteer work, they will create a very valuable asset for the country as a whole."

Three days before May 20 -- the third anniversary of Chen's inauguration -- he praised volunteers for their contributions in the fight against SARS and encouraged more people to devote themselves unselfishly to social work.

When he came into power on May 20, 2000, Chen declared the date as Volunteer's Day and personally has carried out social work on that day for the past two years, including sweeping streets, washing cars and serving as a hospital volunteer.

The president said in his weekly televised broadcast that he was really touched when he saw a group of volunteers offering to work at the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital in April. The hospital was sealed off at the time because of the transmission of SARS among its medical workers.

He said that as the media reported the spread of SARS and the outbreak in the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital, the entire population seemed to panic.

"Many people were worried about whether Taiwanese have become selfish and indifferent," Chen said.

"However, I was touched when I saw the group of volunteers at the Hoping Hospital."

"The volunteers who contributed their work to the place, where other people in general feared to tread, have boosted public confidence in overcoming the disease."

"And their bravery have also epitomized the kindheartedness and spirit of the Taiwanese people, which had already been demonstrated during the earthquake of Sep. 21, 1999 and the flood in Taipei," he said.

Chen stressed that this spirit was also the key element that drove the Taiwanese people's ancestors to emmigrate and settle on the island.

"With so many volunteer friends staying in SARS-infected areas to assist victims of the epidemic and so many medical staff devoted to fighting SARS on the frontline, I believe that the kindness of heart of the Taiwanese people did not change."

"Therefore, I hope everyone can walk into the `bank of time' with me on national Volunteer's Day to open an account for the country and for him or herself," Chen concluded.

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