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A Day in the Life of an Olympic Volunteer
    2008-07-28 12:27:02     CRIENGLISH.com

Zhu Guihua (2nd R) and her fellow volunteers pose victory gesture on Saturday, July 26, 2008. They are looking forward to and striving for a successful Olympic Games in Beijing. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

Zhu Guihua is enjoying her work as an Olympic volunteer, despite having to divide her time between her regular job and running one of the city's Olympic volunteer service booths in the sweltering summer heat.

The 56-year-old Beijing resident has been much busier since she started working as an Olympic volunteer on July 1. Aside from her regular job as an official at a local residential community, zhu has had to manage more than 100 volunteers at one of the capital's many service stations. But she said the experience has been worthwhile so far.

"We are proud to be volunteers and enjoy our work," she said. "We must do well, because we represent Beijing and the whole country for visitors from all over the world."

Zhu is one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that will work during the Summer Games in August and Paralympics in September. All in all, there are about 100,000 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers, 400,000 city volunteers and 1 million social volunteers who will provide several services in Beijing in the run-ups to and during the two major sports events.

Zhu's current crew includes her daughter, 100 college students majoring in foreign languages at local universities and several senior citizens who reside in her community. They offer a variety of services, including providing interpretations, acting as tour guides and administering first aid.

All the volunteers underwent intensive training and special language instruction before taking up their posts, although some older volunteers found it difficult early on to try to communicate with foreign visitors.

"We had no means to communicate with foreigners at the beginning except with simple gestures," Zhu said. "Many times when the visitors were dissatisfied and left, we were worried."

But the situation took a turn for the better after 100 college students, each of whom could speak a foreign language, arrived.

"At present, we usually arrange four college students and a senior volunteer to work on a shift," Zhu said. "The students will deal with the language problems, while the seniors will be in charge of the tour guides."

Volunteers work at the booth each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in three shifts.

As the deputy director of the residents' committee of Shunyuanli Community in Chaoyang District, Zhu has to divide her time equally between her two jobs.

She usually goes to the volunteer booth in the morning to set up the pavilion and clean it. She then arranges informational books and flyers for the visitors who will stop by before heading to her office around noon. Zhu commutes by bike several times a day between the two locations.

Zhu is always the last volunteer to leave the booth every evening. After she closes the station, she spends about an hour completing five reports about daily operations and the suggestions solicited from guests.

The station is near several luxury hotels that will accommodate many senior officials and tourists from abroad during the Games. Zhu said her team of volunteers has left no stone unturned in improving their services. She said she is proud of the measures they have taken to better satisfy visitors. For example, they have urged the volunteer administration to prepare sufficient stocks of city maps for tourists. They also have made gifts for visitors.

"We have invited some residents from our community to make Olympics-themed paper cuttings and miniature Chinese calligraphy works," Zhu said. "We sealed them in plastic bags and plan to present them to foreign visitors at our station."

Zhu said her booth is the only one of the city's 550 volunteer service stations to give out traditional handiwork items as gifts. The effort has paid off. Zhu said all the foreign tourists were excited when they received the exquisite gifts.

Sun Yue, Zhu's 28-year-old daughter, said she is very proud of her mother and is happy to be working with her at the booth.

"It's arduous for my mom to deal with two jobs that are of equal importance," Sun said. "I know it's not easy for her, so I will shoulder more work at home."

Zhu hopes that Sun can use some of the nursing skills she learned in school when she volunteers at the booth. She said she expects Sun to further improve herself through volunteer work and to develop a passion for helping others.
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What do you think will impress foreign visitors the most during the Beijing Olympics?
The friendliness of the Beijing people
The Water Cube and other Olympic venues
The Forbidden City
The Great Wall
Beijing "siheyuan" (Chinese traditional courtyard houses)
Peking Opera
Wangfujing Street
Beijing Roast Duck