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Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 13:47 UK
Volunteering on an Olympic scale

James Xu vounteering at a recent Haiti fund raising event
James Xu volunteering at a Haiti fund raising event earlier this year

James Xu started volunteering in 2007 as a tour guide at the Qingdao Aquarium while he was studying in China. Since then he's donated his time to a range of causes including volunteering at the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing. James is now hoping that he'll get an opportunity to volunteer at the London 2012 Games. But just what's involved in volunteering?

What types of volunteer work have you done?

I've volunteered for a wide range of categories: animals, children, sports, fundraising, interpreting, older people, people with disabilities, etc. As the Volunteering Officer at University College London, I also volunteered for and organised several one-off volunteering events, such as a Haiti Fundraiser.

How many hours do you spend volunteering and how do you balance volunteering with your normal day job?

During the term-time at UCL, I spend about 10 hours per week on the work that relates to volunteering by getting involved in the UCL Union volunteering society and being Volunteering Officer at UCL. Even though, sometimes, it means sacrificing my free time I still feel it's worthwhile because I am actually helping others and making a difference.

What's the best thing for you about volunteering?

Volunteering opens another world for me. The reason why I think so is mainly because of the friendships [I develop] from volunteering. Through different volunteering events, I have met so many friends from different backgrounds. With the same goal and volunteering spirit, people become close friends within a short time, and these kinds of friendship will indeed last.

James Xu voluteering at the 2008 Bejing Olympic and Paralympic Games
James helping out athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics Games

Volunteering looks set to play an important part in the London 2012 Games - what would it mean to you, to be a volunteer for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012?

It is really hard to express the life-long impact of volunteering for the 2008 Olympics and Paralymics on me. Days ago, I went for an interview with LOCOG for a pre-Game volunteering role. The moment I stepped in their office, I felt a sense of going back to those memorable moments. My previous involvement in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics has taught me the joy of volunteering for the Olympics. Volunteering for London 2012 Olympics would provide me with further opportunities to meet new friends, learn about the culture differences, and perhaps [points] me in the right direction in the future as well.

Apart from the sporting events, how else do you think London communities can benefit from volunteering in the run up to the 2012 Games?

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics volunteering helped build international relationships between the [locals] and people from different parts of the world. Smiling became a common language in volunteering and everyday life among us. Likewise, perhaps in London, people will become closer and are more likely to meet and communicate with people from other regions or nations through volunteering events before the London 2012 Olympics.

James with the mascot from the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games
James with the mascot from the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games

What advice would you give to people thinking about volunteering?

Volunteering is indeed a way of helping others, and we might feel very happy that we can actually help others and learn new things. However, it is also worthwhile to notice those who volunteer with you. They are likely to be your closest friends because you are the ones who share the same goals and experiences, who like to help others and who might help each other in the future.

How important do you think it is to do something positive in your community?

Every little helps. If everyone could make a commitment to do something positive to change the communities, then it means a greater change to the world.

National Volunteer week takes place between 1 and 7 June. For more information about opportunities near you check out the Volunteer England website

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