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THIS IS AMERICA - Volunteers

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VOICE ONE:

More than eighty-million Americans give their time to help their communities and people in need. President Bush has asked more people to become volunteers. I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember. The story of volunteers in the United States is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

Volunteers are people who help others without being paid. Volunteering is a well-established tradition in the United States.

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Recently, President Bush ordered the government to find ways for more civilians to help the nation. He says America needs additional volunteers after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D-C. More than three-thousand people are thought to have died as a result of the September Eleventh attacks.

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The president also asked state and local officials to create civilian defense groups to protect United States territory. Mister Bush said the volunteer civilian defense services would help police and fire officials. The volunteers also would aid public health agencies during emergencies. White House officials say twenty-thousand members of the government volunteer programs AmeriCorps and Senior Corps would be asked to take part.

VOICE TWO:

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Fifty-thousand young people are volunteers with AmeriCorps. They are men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. They serve from ten months to two years. Members receive a small amount of money for living expenses, but no pay. They also receive almost five-thousand dollars for college or other educational expenses when they finish their service.

These young volunteers help poor people in America develop skills to improve their lives. They teach in schools and help children with their school work. Some AmeriCorps volunteers guard public parks and help put out wildfires in forests. Others are helping families of victims of the terrorist attacks. Since those attacks, thirty percent more people have expressed interest in joining AmeriCorps.

VOICE ONE:

Two United States senators recently proposed increasing AmeriCorps to two-hundred-fifty-thousand members. This increase would take place over ten years. Senator Evan Bayh and Senator John McCain say the organization could provide valuable help for homeland defense. Officials say AmeriCorps volunteers might be trained to aid border and airport security guards.

VOICE TWO:

Older Americans serve in the government volunteer program called Senior Corps. More than five-hundred-thousand volunteers have served in the Senior Corps during the past thirty years. Many older people are able to volunteer because they are retired from their jobs and have extra time to help others. Senior Corps members volunteer in their own communities. They teach children. They aid old people so they can continue to live independently. They help sick people in hospitals and nursing homes. They provide food for the homeless.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))

VOICE ONE:

The United States has more than one-million firefighters. About seventy-four percent of them serve without pay. The National Association of State Foresters says volunteer firefighters save communities across the country almost thirty-seven-thousand-million dollars a year.

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Every day, volunteers fight fires. They respond to medical emergencies. They keep equipment and vehicles ready for action. They help the public during floods, severe windstorms and incidents involving dangerous materials.

The number of volunteer firefighters in the United States has decreased between five and ten percent since Nineteen-Eighty-Three. Since then, the hours of training required to become a volunteer firefighter have increased. So have the number of emergency calls. But even with increased demands on volunteer firefighters, many people enjoy this valuable work.

VOICE TWO:

Each year, thousands of Americans work in hospitals without pay. These volunteers include retired people and young students. Hospital volunteers read to patients. They help sick children forget their pain. They work in the hospital gift store. They work in the waiting areas for emergency rooms and operating rooms. They tell families how patients are doing. Hospital volunteers recently helped thousands of people after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

For example, volunteers at New York Presbyterian Hospital worked in the emergency rooms. They brought equipment, medical supplies, food and water to doctors and nurses treating patients. They assisted people who came to give blood. They helped families looking for loved ones injured in the attacks.

VOICE ONE:

American Red Cross volunteers work at thousands of floods, fires and other terrible events every year. They also performed great service after the terrorist attacks. Some of these people worked day and night for days at the fallen World Trade Center buildings in New York. Red Cross workers helped care for injured people who escaped from the buildings. They aided the firefighters and police who helped people flee. They tried to help people find their loved ones missing in the fires and explosions. They managed supplies that people gave to help the rescue and recovery work.

Many other people in New York helped the rescue workers by bringing food, water and supplies. Reports said so many people volunteered to help that many had to be turned away.

((BRIDGE MUSIC))

VOICE TWO:

There are thousands of volunteer organizations in the United States. Almost all of them report an increase in volunteers since the terrorist attacks. A group called A-A-R-P represents older Americans. It recently organized a Day of Service on December sixth. A-A-R-P called on its thirty-five-million members to make a difference by volunteering in their communities that day and throughout the year.

Several other volunteer organizations also took part in the Day of Service. A group called America's Second Harvest is the nation's largest hunger-relief organization. Its volunteers provide food for Americans in need. Meals on Wheels is another well-known volunteer organization. It operates in thousands of communities in the United States. Volunteers bring hot meals to old people who are not able to leave their homes.

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Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is the nation's largest and oldest mentoring organization. Volunteers help children and young people by providing friendship and guidance.

VOICE ONE:

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Other volunteer organizations build and repair homes for poor people. One of these is Habitat for Humanity. It began in Nineteen-Seventy-Six. Since then, volunteers have built more than one-hundred-thousand houses in the United States and in more than eighty other countries.

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The organization has hundreds of thousands of volunteers. Two of the most famous are former American President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn (pictured).

Former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore also have helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Many young people also volunteer to build houses. Thousands of college students take part during their holidays from school.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))

VOICE TWO:

Until recently, a majority of volunteers in America were older people. Now, however, more and more young people are becoming volunteers, too. Most American teenagers do some volunteer work. Many get their first experience helping others by taking part in programs organized by their schools or churches. For example, they help young children learn to read. They serve meals at local centers for the homeless. Or, during their summer holiday, they volunteer at special camps for children and adults with disabilities.

VOICE ONE:

Many American volunteers do not work for organized groups. Still, they help others and can make a difference in peoples' lives. For example, a Chicago writer gave reading lessons to a child who lived nearby. She did this after his mother said the boy seemingly could not learn. His teachers had offered little hope for his success in school, or in life. Now, many years later, this young man is studying engineering in a university.

((THEME))

VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced George Grow. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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