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Spiritual Poverty Reduction: Neo-Philanthropy Fills the Gap in Traditional Charity, 2013-09-22 16:38:42


By Feng Lu


Many neo-philanthropy projects focusing on spiritual poverty reduction were unveiled during the second China Charity Fair launched in 21 September 2013. The emphasis on happiness fills the gaps left by traditional charity models, indicating philanthropy in China has become more substantive. 


According to experts at present, neo-philanthropy advocates three ideas. First, attention should be given to both spiritual and material poverty reduction; second, a systemic way of thinking that emphasizes man is an integral part of nature should be applied to development and poverty reduction to achieve sustainable social development and philanthropy; and third, “passing on love and passion” and capacity building are stressed, and public empowerment and participation are encouraged by incubating and supporting social enterprises. 


In the second China Charity Fair, spiritual poverty reduction projects about happiness caught much attention. Happy neo-philanthropy was demonstrated from different perspectives, from free psychological consulting and social services of Shenzhen Citizen Emotional Care Center to “spiritual and cultural poverty reduction promoting productivity” program organized by Xixiang County Women Development Association in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province, from Shenzhen “Sharing Sunshine” Volunteers’ juvenile offenders sponsorship program to Dongguan Blue Sky and Care Public Service Center’s female workers care program launched in Magnolia Women Stations in Guangdong. 


Ms. Wang Ping, YouChange Chairperson who is committed to neo-philanthropy, said that this fair took “Charity makes China more beautiful” as its theme and happy people must be beautiful. Neo-philanthropy advocates “how innovative solutions can resolve the most real and urgent needs related to people’s happiness.” It stresses that new solutions can resolve social problems, realize harmony between man and nature, between man and society, between men themselves and between man and his inner self. This can help human beings achieve happiness. 


Charity in the psychological field remains a vacuum in China. According to the 2013 World Happiness Report released on Monday by Columbia University's Earth Institute, China ranked 93rd. This stands in sharp contrast to China’s GDP, the second largest in the world, and its foreign exchange reserves, the largest in the world. 


“We have got rich, but it seems our happiness doesn’t match”, said Mr. Liu Feng, chief advisor to the Institute of Chinese Culture and Social Responsibility of Peking University. In the past decade, the charity community in China has provided all kinds of social services to the disadvantaged groups to improve their livelihood, health and environment. In particular, their donation has met the material needs of some disadvantaged groups. But, we still have a long way to go before we realize the fundamental objective of philanthropy—improvement of people’s welfare. The current perception of philanthropy must be upgraded if we want to substantially enhance the happiness index. 


“About 278,000 people commit suicide in China every year and more than 16 million people suffer from serious psychological diseases. However, there are few charity organizations and projects which take care of ‘human heart’”, said Xu Jing’an, director of the Shenzhen-based China Happiness Research Institute and director of Shenzhen Citizen Emotional Care Center. In the traditional sense, charity is about donation in money and kind. As charity services in education, disaster relief and healthcare are put in place, it is urgent to establish a psychological aid system and emotional care system to address the growing number of suicides and emotional problems. 

Mr. Zhao Chen, director of the Charity Development Center of China Institute of Strategy and Management, argued that the ultimate objective of today’s charity is people’s happiness and social wellbeing. The role of social organizations, religious groups and the community should be further tapped. Mature business models need to be introduced to run charity more efficiently. This will help forge professional bodies in a stable framework for “happy neo-philanthropy” and make more people realize their dreams. 

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