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October 21, 2010

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1-meter tall Expo volunteer is big hit

STANDING barely 1 meter tall, Expo volunteer Gu Yijie has to make a big impression on visitors to ensure they notice her among the crowds.

Gu, an English-major senior at Donghua University, is working with college mates until the end of the event.

The Shanghainese, who has achondroplasia which results in very short limbs, is based near the horn-shaped structure called "Sun Valley."

Many visitors fail to spot Gu, who is 1.03 meters tall, standing beside a taller male volunteer. "They all tend to refer to him and neglect me," she said.

When she asks if she can help, visitors are at first surprised, and then moved by her spirit. "Many visitors ask to take photos with me," Gu said. "They always cheer up for me and encourage me to do a good job."

In return, she tries to help every visitor. Many ask her where to reserve tickets for the China Pavilion, which is frequently fully booked.

"You cannot simply tell them that there are no tickets left. We should consider their feelings," she said. To ease visitors' disappointment, Gu reminds them that the China Pavilion will reopen after Expo and they can visit then.

"It's not difficult to answer visitors' questions," she said. "But the biggest challenge is to my physical strength."

Activities such as climbing stairs require a lot of effort for Gu. She rides an electric tricycle on campus and finds it difficult to stand and walk for a long time at the Expo.

University teachers advised her to quit the service and her father asked her to take a stool to rest on. But Gu refused, insisting in fulfilling her service like any other volunteer.

Many disabled people have offered voluntary service to the Expo. "They have displayed strong voluntary spirit," said Zhang Yalin, an official with the Volunteer Department at the Expo.


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