11 September 2012

What will you take away from the Olympics/Paralympics Summer?

From the Danny Boyle Olympics Opening Ceremony to the 100th medal of the Paralympics; with numerous new world records to the spirit of the London 2012 Games Maker.  Here we share with you a few stories from our own 28 Too Many Team who took an ‘alternate’ volunteering holiday to make this a Games to remember.

 So, back to the Olympic Games, where Lucy – our Volunteer Researcher forUganda– shares her memories…

 Isles of wonder… 

We were never going to do an Opening Ceremony with as much military precision as Beijing. No, what Danny Boyle was tasked with was far harder, bring the British people together and stop them moaning.  How to do this? Thousands of volunteers, buckets as drums, bit of help from the NHS, best of British bands and of course James Bond and the Queen! 

 The 27th July was one of the best nights of my life and it kick started what has been an incredible two weeks, not just forLondonand GB, but for the world. The 30th Olympiad has shown the best of British in sport, facilities, sense of community and just general involvement and positivity. People are smiling on the tube, the news is on the whole positive, people are proud to be British and anyone who has been lucky enough to help make these games will feel the same. It has been truly marvellous! 

I was in the Thanks Tim section (the bit with the huge house and all the music! I applied this time a year ago, auditioned in Nov/Dec last year, rehearsals started on a Saturday afternoon, in Bromley-by-Bow in April. 

 Huge amounts of queuing, surviving on mochas from instant coffee and hot chocolate, costume fittings, sunburn, getting rained on (lots!) were some of the key ingredients to success. People of all different dance abilities and experience came together to learn, sweat, work hard to put together an incredible show. 

Despite an ill-fitting, very questionable lycra all in one as a costume and some very late nights and irritating public transport debacles the whole experience was amazing, being part of such a huge show, to audiences of volunteers, dignitaries, THE WORLD, was incredible.

 I feel hugely privileged to be a part of it, the people I met, the volunteers and the incredible team that put the show together, the memories, the chats with Mr Boyle at the ice cream van, seeing the stadium come together, seeing the show come together, incredible experience and being involved with the Olympic effort has just been such a wonderful experience and something I will never never forget. Now…!

 Now when are the auditions for Rio!

 Volunteering as a Gamemaker

Over 70,000 volunteers have taken part in the Olympics and Paralympics Games, being commended by Lord Coe, the media and almost every visitor or commuter over the Games.  In visible purple and red uniforms, they are expected to be cheerful, courteous, culturally sensitive and patient – epitomising the values of the games: to be inspiring; distinctive; open; alert; consistent and part of the team.  Even in the recruitment process, LOCOG did not want clones, but individuals who could be themselves, show initiative yet work within a structured hierarchy to deliver a ‘sharp’ Games.

Ann-Marie put her name down 6 years ago (!), with the active recruitment process starting an application in 2010, an interview in February 2011, and a decision in February 2012.  The Senior Medical Team knew what they wanted, ensuring applicants shared of their previous relevant experiences – whilst showing their personality.  I shared that my favourite Olympic sports were ‘ice skating and synchronised swimming’ – which I wasn’t sure was a winning answer!  They were also interested that I’d taught English to the BOCOG team of senior Olympic executives inBeijing– showing some interest in the Olympics movement.

 Asked of her favourite moments they include ‘staying with a lady who was being sick one morning, and making her feel comfortable; giving stickers (and plasters!) to young 3 year olds who had grazed knees; dressing a Russian VIP Dr’s blistered heels and a Japanese ladies grazed nose – whist having no common language except bowing!  Of course there are was the sports!

 Highlights include – watching Usain Bolt and Mo Farrah win their medals in the stadium; seeing the Olympics closing ceremony and Paralympics Opening and Closing one – with the Queen present!  Getting to know the Olympic park and meeting her heroine, Louise Hunt, a wheelchair Paralympics athlete, who she met on a flight from Johannesburgin April, “she is the most inspiring women I have ever met”

 A legacy?

The theme for World Humanitarian Day on 19th August was ‘I was here’.  The UN created this day as a time to celebrate and remember ‘People who help people’.  This also embraces how we started 28 Too Many – from doing humanitarian work inWest Darfur, and meeting a girl called Fatima who had FGM.  There is a quote in the London Opening Ceremony Programme that says “We play best when we’re together. No insight or knowledge but an excuse to get together in a state of pleasant perplexity, to be part of each other’s lives.  Because, in the end, what matters most to us is each other”.

 As economists around the world justify whether winning several hundred medals was worth the £9 billion of public money, there has to be more!  Britain will have extra tourist ‘economic’ pounds and sporting and fitness benefits for years to come, yet for many it was the atmosphere that was memorable: policemen doing ‘The Bolt’; volunteers cracking jokes; children greeting volunteers as celebrities; and London feeling sunny in spirit!

 David Cameron attributes the success to competitive spirit and volunteering.  The latter is what lies behind the Big Society initiative.  Mike Locke, head of policy at Volunteering England  says that only time will tell if the enthusiasm of the Games Makers will translate into a surge in volunteering – but he is optimistic. “The majority of Games Makers have volunteered for something before and will do so again, especially if they have had a good experience,” he says. “The way to get people to volunteer again is to make sure they feel special and important, which I think has happened.”

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations agrees. “People volunteer for specific reasons such as interest in a cause, but they also get things they didn’t expect, such as personal satisfaction, new skills and meeting new people,” he says.

The potential for an Olympic legacy in volunteering rests on several factors, including the ease with which Games Makers can find new volunteering opportunities and the stories they tell to family, friends and colleagues about their experience.

“The great thing about an event on the scale of the Olympics is that people will talk about their experiences and others will listen to them,” says Kernighan. “Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get people involved.”

One of our newest volunteers, Angela describes her experience as a staffing team member at North Greenwich Arena. 

 “The highlight was after a very long and challenging shift, a little boy running up to me near to my home, stopping me asking me about what I did and telling me of his dream to be in the Olympics.

I learnt that when everyone is on the same page, with the same vision, maintaining the ethos of what the UK bid for in 2005 and seeing it come to fruition in excellence, that you can and will push beyond your own personal agenda to deliver an outstanding service. My surprise was the positive regard and respect given to the Games Makers, and knowing that I was part of 70K who were chosen!”.

 Running an organisation that is 100% made up of remotely based volunteers, 28 Too Many has plenty to learn from the Olympics!  People look to learn new skills whilst using old ones; gain a sense of usefulness and to make a different; gain new friends and felt part of a team/family/organisation/community/cause!; be given expenses and feel valued.  If you want to join the 28 Too Many community, as a volunteer; fundraiser; donor or follower , look at our website, drop us an email at info@28toomany.org, like us on Facebook or follow as on Twitter.