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BEIJING — Thomas and Linda Brighton came from their Utah County home in Woodland Hills to the Peoples Republic of China last year to do volunteer work. But they had no idea from the onset of the kind of volunteer work theyd be doing during August 2008.
Photo courtesy Thomas BrightonLinda and Thomas Brighton were in China as humanitarian volunteers when they decided to donate their extra time as Olympic volunteers.
In Beijing since last fall as humanitarian volunteers representing LDS Charities and teaching English at the China Womens University the Brightons found themselves with some free time during the summer with classes closed and much of Beijings summer routine altered by the 2008 Olympics.
So they did what any good volunteers would do. They re-upped for August but with a different outfit — the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.
We thought Were here theres nothing else to do so we signed up said Brother Brighton.
They were part of a force of some 100000 Beijing Olympics volunteers — mostly college-aged students and young adults. More specifically the Brightons worked as language specialists in the Olympic Sports Complex where water polo handball and modern pentathlon events were contested.
A novelty on several fronts the Brightons were two of the relatively few Americans working as Beijing Olympics volunteers and they were certainly two of the oldest in a country where the elderly are honored and respected — but not very visible in the public eye.
I got asked Are you the oldest volunteer at the Olympics? said 66-year-old Tom Brighton with a smile pointing to his wife a couple of months his elder. And I answered No my wife is older.
Sister Brighton said the scores of younger volunteers with whom they served daily were constantly watching them and encouraging them to rest and take it easy.
They revere older people she said underscoring the Chinese cultures emphasis on families. To them were their grandparents.
While their nationality and age drew interest from Chinas CCTV and the Peoples Daily newspaper interviewers soon learned of their charity involvement in China and the featured coverage ended up being longer and more in-depth.
The Brightons find it ironic they had to come to China for their first Olympics experience. They lived in upstate New York — just a few hours away from Lake Placid a former Games venue — for more than two decades when Brother Brighton worked in the plastics industry.
And once in Utah and signed up as volunteers at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics they were called to go to Ireland where he served as president of the Ireland Dublin Mission.
In Beijing the Brightons helped coordinate efforts from LDS Charities with the All China Womens Federation providing wheelchairs and walkers to people with disabilities womens vocational training and library books for the schools for children of migrant workers. Theyve also been involved in relief efforts from Mays devastating Chengu earthquake.
Since they entered the country on teaching visas part of their assignment is to teach English courses at the China Womens University — she in world current affairs and he in business English.
The Brightons live on campus in one of the womens dorms. Its like living in a 24-hour youth conference Brother Brighton said.
Sister Brighton said they wish LDS Charities donors could sense the tremendous good done by their donations such as the polio-ravaged males in their 40s who weep when given a walker saying they can now go out of the home and sell vegetables or make some sort of living.
Or the day last November — Thanksgiving Day in fact back in the United States — when they delivered 250 wheelchairs to a Xian orphanage for disabled children.
They sang for us a song called The Thanksgiving Heart and signed it in sign language said Brother Brighton mindful of the irony of the situation.
And theyre telling us about thankfulness.
As Olympics volunteer applicants they failed the first requirement — the ability to speak Chinese — but were signed on as language specialists helping the younger volunteers refine their English language skills in
water-polo and handball vocabulary (they had to go home and learn it first themselves from the Internet) as well as how to interview athletes.
Their Olympics experience was much like their overall experience in China.
Were getting to meet and get to know so many exciting people said Sister Brighton. Were making new friends daily.
Photo courtesy Thomas BrightonNews of their charity service drew interest and coverage from Chinas CCTV and the Peoples Daily newspaper.
Photo courtesy Thomas BrightonThomas and Linda Brighton were among some 100000 Beijing Olympics volunteers mostly young adults.
E-mail: taylor@desnews.com

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