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June 19, 2010

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Expo brings out volunteer spirit

SHANGHAI people have done the city proud for their ongoing support of the World Expo. Take a closer look at three volunteers from Yangpu District who are going above and beyond the call of duty by donating their weekends to helping Expo visitors, Fei Lai reports.

A cute nickname, "small Chinese cabbage," has been coined for World Expo volunteers due to their white and green uniforms.

Working as an Expo volunteer is not as easy as many may think, especially with the weather heating up. It can be physically draining to stand outside in the heat and humidity for hours each day. Still, there has been no shortage of people competing for the honor.

From today, 537 volunteers from Yangpu District begin work at the Expo site. These volunteers were selected from 80,000 applicants.

These volunteers are different than the normal volunteers because they only work on national holidays and weekends (peak-hour), when Expo attendance is expected to swell. Many are office workers, university students or public servants who are willing to devote their spare time to voluntarily work at the Expo site.

Wang Mei, 40, an administrator from Fudan University, is one of the Yangpu volunteers.

Wearing the "small Chinese cabbage" uniform and standing next to her son, also a peak-hour volunteer, Wang looks considerably younger -- like she could be her son's sister instead of his mother -- while she takes the pledge to serve at the Expo.

From today to August 1, she will serve at Africa Square in Zone C as a volunteer team leader to guide visitors and provide pavilion information each weekend.

Wang says the best part is that her son Yang Zi'ang, who just finished the college entrance examinations, is a part of her team.

"To be honest, he has been influenced by me, as I have been enthusiastic about being a volunteer,'' Wang says. "It's important for me to set an example."

In 2008, Wang served in Laos for six months voluntarily teaching Chinese to Laotians and supporting the poor and those in need.

"At that time, I was a tutor for postgraduates at Fudan University," Wang says. "Usually, I'm the one who mobilizes students to give their time to society and nurture more social responsibility. Later, I realized that I should act as an example to them first, which is more persuasive than lecturing."

Her work even received praise from Premier Wen Jiabao, who visited Laos while Wang was there.

"I became addicted to volunteering after I came back from Laos," Wang says. "Once you become a volunteer, you will be a volunteer for life. It frees one spiritually by giving love to others."

Wang says while preparing for her role as a trainer of Expo volunteers, she brings her work home, which has been picked up by her son. She says he has been preparing for his role by collecting information about the Expo on the Internet, from periodicals and other media.

Like Wang, Wu Wei, a 33-year-old psychologist and teacher from Shanghai Municipal Health School, feels that Expo volunteer work is special.

Wu has been serving at a psychological counseling room opened by the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination to help Expo employees and volunteers since May 1.

The room features psychotherapists as well as music and facilities to help volunteers overcome long hours, extreme temperatures and huge crowds.

"Serving employees is different from taking inquiries from visitors. Everyone has different responsibilities, but the pressure is the same," Wu says.

"By providing these psychological tests and music, we can release their tension and help them provide better service to Expo visitors."

As of the end of May, the counseling room had received more than 400 workers and volunteers.

Wu and other psychologists have been encouraged to create a psychological health manual, tai chi exercises and breathing training in order to help the teams.

"The process can help Expo volunteers realize their value and refresh them," he says.

While Wu's counseling work has come to an end, Wu will begin work as a peak-hour volunteer today and continue until the end of July.

"The volunteer badge has endowed me with honor and value. I cherish who I am now," Wu says.

Meanwhile, Ma Junting, born in the 1980s, is a national-level karate coach and referee and also an Asian Karate Union referee. Embarking on a self-made career, Ma started her own business, Karate Service Center, in Shanghai three years ago, right after graduating from Jiao Tong University with a major in computer science.

She is another peak-hour volunteer this month, serving in Zone C each weekend from today until July 31.

"Fresh from university and without experience or capital, it was not easy to start a business,'' Ma says. "I have received so much social support in the past several years. Volunteering offers me a great opportunity to show my gratitude.''

While starting the karate center, the young entrepreneur says she never forgot to give something back to society.

She has worked as a volunteer for the Special Olympics in 2007, donated books to quake-hit areas in Sichuan Province, and performed karate voluntarily at a number of charity events.

Ma's Karate Service Center?now plans to provide fitness programs to children of migrant workers and the underprivileged and hold charity sports events like table tennis contests.

"While there is much to do, being a good Expo volunteer is my priority," Ma says.


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