Volunteers from Chinese colleges work at the media center of the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 in Yanqing District of Beijing on April 27 (XINHUA)
Liang Mingfang, a 56-year-old woman from Huludao in northeast China's Liaoning Province, is a landscape worker at the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing in Yanqing District. She has been working for a company in charge of the greening work for the expo since February.
"I am so lucky to work in such a good environment since this is my first time working away from home," she told Beijing Review. Surrounded by flowers, grass and trees makes her happy regardless of how hard the work is. "Did you visit the garden in May?" she asked. "The tulips were so colorful and beautiful."
The expo has welcomed 2.06 million guests since opening on April 29, according to organizers on June 10. Besides beautiful landscapes, visitors can enjoy considerable services, which are the fruit of the efforts of the expo's staff.
"When I first arrived at the expo, the whole park was still under construction," Liang said. The land was still frozen after a winter. Before opening to the public, Liang, together with other gardeners, worked until midnight many days.
"I don't think of it as hard work. On the contrary, I have a huge sense of fulfillment witnessing the building of roads and pavilions and the green coming from the land," she said. "It is a great honor for me to participate in an exhibition at such a high level."
Buried in the work of maintaining the plants, Liang finally had a chance to see the expo carefully after three months. On May 15, she visited the China Pavilion with her friends during her break. "It is gorgeous, I don't even know how to describe it, I was astonished," she said, adding that she filmed the visit with her cellphone.
Since Liang began working in Beijing, she has not gone back home. "I will show my family how marvelous the pavilion was. It would be better, though, if I could take them to visit the expo and tell them my stories and about my contributions."
Giving and taking
Wen Jiapu, a volunteer from the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), finished his eight-day volunteering at the expo on July 7. He was appointed the leader of a team of 10 people who were in charges of providing services in six east Africa pavilions. The number of volunteers at the expo from BIT was 186, accounting for over one third of the total.
Wen still remembers June 30, his first day at the expo. "I tried my best to get a sense of my position since I didn't know my duties very well at first," he said. As time passed, however, he became adept at his daily chores.
Wu Dengxu, another BIT volunteer, told Beijing Review that he was very fond of his work there. "It kept me energetic and enriched my life," he said. Along with his duties at the media center, he also took responsibility for recording his schoolmates' experiences. He often posted interesting details about their life at the expo on a social media platform.
Wu said although they were from different departments of the university and did not know each other beforehand, mutual understanding was enhanced through cooperation and group activities at the expo. "For me, the expo is a platform where nice people meet each other and create priceless memories in a beautiful place," he said.
In addition, people-to-people exchanges have been conducted at an international level. "I talked to overseas Kenyan students, who are studying in Beijing, at the expo every day. We were all willing to tell each other about our countries," Wen said, adding that he learned a lot more about Kenya while working at the Kenya Pavilion. At the same time, the China Pavilion is also a unique window for foreign students to understand Chinese culture and traditions.
"It is also good to evoke people's awareness about protecting the environment and saving energy to realize green lives, better lives," Wu said.
A staff member introduces Jingdezhen ceramic tea cups to a visitor during Jiangxi Day at the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 in Yanqing District of Beijing on June 16 (XINHUA)
Since April 29, Ricky Lu and his team from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) visit their exhibition area at the expo once a week. To successfully manage the display, they have successfully tackled the challenges of restricted space and time.
In cooperation with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNOPS created a special UN area on the second floor of the International Pavilion. As a newer UN organization, UNOPS was set up to assist countries to achieve sustainable development and help people build better lives. Walking through the booth that features a simple and elegant style, visitors can gain a better understanding of the organization through photographs, posters and videos from real-life examples.
Seven concepts included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were chosen as the theme of the exhibits such as affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities and gender equality. Lu explained, "Gender equality may have no relevance to horticulture and a green life, but it is part of a better life, which is also emphasized by the expo."
To increase visitor interaction, the UNOPS exhibition has prepared questions related to the SDGs which people can access by scanning QR codes. In addition, a new exhibition will be set up to welcome more students during their summer holiday showcasing paintings done by young people focusing on the SDGs and a green life. Moreover, forums for teenagers on global issues, including sustainable development, are the next set of activities UNOPS will focus on during the expo.
Lu stressed that the exhibition at the expo was a joint effort of UNOPS employees globally. "We received many cases conducted all over the world. They are displayed here to explain our work and how we try to build a better life."
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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