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Volunteers give, and get at Beijing Paralympics
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14:09, September 09, 2008

For those she served, Zhou Lingli, a volunteer at the ongoing Beijing Paralympic Games, was just like their ears.

"The Judoka is German, and her twin sister won a medal yesterday...A Chinese athlete is coming out and he is very good too... Yes that was a quick roll and he won..."

It was during the Paralympic Judo competition that Zhou used sign language to help about 100 spectators with hearing difficulties to understand the matches, and provided assistance when needed.

"I answer questions. I help them locate their seats, buy food, go to the bathrooms and also interpret for them when they need to talk with others," said the 34-year-old teacher from east China's Anhui Province.

"The Paralympics is not an everyday event. These are precious moments for them, and I'm proud to be part of it," she said.

About 44,000 volunteers like Zhou work for the Paralympics. They run simple errands like handing out balloon toys and guarding venue entrances, provide emergency aid to athletes and spectators, and help people in ways that no others can.

Games organizers said the volunteers are from 27 countries and regions, and 90 percent of them worked for the Olympic Games last month. The number of volunteers was halved from the Olympics as the number of Paralympians only stood at less than half of the Olympians.

But efforts have been made to guarantee the quality of the services doesn't slip. The volunteers were put through rigorous trainings in assisting the disabled people.

Zhang Xiwen, a volunteer at the judo venue, went through several simulation situations with her co-workers. She had her eyes blindfolded and was led by others around the venue to see if there are any barriers in the way.

"I'm familiar with my job now, but there are all kinds of situations to handle. For example, the athletes can't see, so they may easily get hurt in the match. There is no way I can lax in my work," said the senior university student.

Although Zhang had to skip two courses on the curriculum in order to fulfill her duties, she sees her time well spent as both Games are "extremely valuable" experiences. She has picked up a few Judo terms which she said couldn't be acquired in her entire life otherwise, and met "great people," such as some lovable kids with disabilities from Thailand who came to watch the Games.

Luo Yanhan, a volunteer in the athletes' village, enjoyed every detail in her daily work. "Some visitors, like those with no arms, have difficulty filling out the forms, so I do that for them. At those moments, I really feel connected with the people you try to help," she said.

In a major difference from the situation during the Olympics, the Paralympic Games have inducted quite a few volunteers with disabilities, who are believed to know best what the disabled people really need and how to cater to such needs.

"I used to be a receiver of others' help, but this time I want to be a provider," said female Chinese wheelchair fencer Qi Kaili, who took up some voluntary responsibilities at the powerlifting venue.

Also in the league were a dozen amputee students from the quake zone of southwest China's Sichuan Province. Their Beijing trips were funded by the China Disabled People's Federation.

Liao Yaoyao, who lost both of her legs in the 8.0-magnitude tremor, works out of the Games venues to distribute Paralympic leaflets as a "city volunteer."

"I want to repay the kindness of the people who helped me, and getting out to talk with others helps me get over my fears too," she said.

Source: Xinhua

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