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They see how to help

A YOUNG couple with poor eyesight has proven they are capable volunteers at the ongoing Shanghai World Expo.

Every day since May 1, when the 184-day event began, the two have helped visitors at the Sunshine & Life Pavilion inside the Expo site experience how a blind person lives in order to help sighted people understand the situations faced daily by the visually impaired.

In a specially darkened room, visitors try to feel about for things such as stone carvings with their hands. They try to judge with their ears in which direction a ball is quickly moving.

Sometimes they may need help from the young couple, who serve as voluntary guides and commentators.

The couple, Zhu Guoxiang and Xie Danling are among 65 handicapped volunteers working at the pavilion - the first designed specially for handicapped people in the more than 150-year history of the Expo.

Zhu, born in 1984, developed cataracts. Xie, born in 1985, suffers from congenital glaucoma and is only able to perceive faint light.

Xie said that outside the pavilion, people with sound bodies can help the handicapped, but inside the Sunshine & Life Pavilion, they may ask visually-impaired people for help.

"A lot of viewers shed tears after they experience how a blind person lives. They say to us, 'Life is so hard for you'," Xie noted.

"Though there were so many difficulties in our lives, we've surmounted them," Zhu said.

After graduating in 2006 from the special education department of the Tianjin University of Sport in Tianjin, a coastal city in northern China, he found a job as a network salesman at a travel company in Shanghai. Three years later, he was promoted to public relations manager.

"A visually-impaired person can achieve self-reliance and accomplish their objectives, if only he or she gets a good chance. I believe that handicapped people can even do as well as healthy people do," Zhu said.

Zhu and Xie signed up for the Sunshine & Life Pavilion after they learned that the pavilion was recruiting via voice software on their computer.

"It's a rare opportunity, indeed, for we visually-impaired people to embody our values," Zhu said.

The couple worked day and night to revise explanations for the pavilion, discuss the design of visitors' books and work out ways to improve interactions between visitors and the volunteers.

Xie said, though she and her boyfriend are visually impaired, they have their own dream. And to serve as volunteers at the World Expo is making part of their dream come true.

Zhu and Xie plan to hold a wedding ceremony at the Sunshine & Life Pavilion on October 10, now that they have known each other for 10 years.


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